Dear RN list, Further to an earlier discussion about the UN and whether or not it is being "sold out" to corporate interests, here is an interesting, if disheartening, article. all the best, Jan (trying to catch up with e-mail!) **************************************************************** Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2000 11:22:36 -0700 From: Aaron Koleszar <•••@••.•••> Subject: UN Getting Into Bed with Big Business: The Guardian (UK) Courtesy of CommonDreams.org Published on Thursday, August 31, 2000 in the Manchester Guardian (UK) UN Getting Into Bed With Big Business The UN is no longer just a joke. It is becoming the villain of the piece by George Monbiot Pity the UN, for it is not powerful enough even to be hated. While other global bodies are widely reviled, the UN has become little more than a joke. Ignored and undermined, its treaties unratified, its fees unpaid, the sometime saviour of the world has sunk toward irrelevance. The general assembly is permanently sidelined. The security council is heeded only when its decisions don't interfere with the plans of any of its members. Next week's Millennium Summit, the biggest meeting of heads of state in the history of the world, is likely to be just another scene in an ever more ludicrous pantomime. UN officials have long been aware of the problem. They have spent much of the past 10 years desperately seeking to be taken seriously by the world's great powers. They are in danger, as a result, of exchanging the role of clown for the role of villain. The UN's metamorphosis began at the Earth Summit in 1992. The UN Centre on Transnational Corporations, which tried to help weak nations to protect themselves from predatory companies, had recommended that businesses should be internationally regulated. The UN refused to circulate its suggestions. Instead the summit adopted the proposals of a very different organisation: the Business Council for Sustainable Development, composed of the chief executives of big corporations. Unsurprisingly, the council had recommended that companies should regulate themselves. In 1993, the UNCTC was dissolved. In June 1997, the president of the general assembly announced that corporations would be given a formal role in UN decision-making. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, suggested that he would like to see more opportunities for companies - rather than governments or the UN - to set global standards. At the beginning of 1998, the UN Conference on Trade and Development revealed that it was working with the International Chamber of Commerce to help developing countries "formulate competition and consumer protection law" and to facilitate trade. The UN, which until a few years before had sought to defend poor countries from big business, would now be helping big business to overcome the resistance of poor countries. The ICC repaid the favour by asking the world's richest nations to give the UN more money. In January 1999, Mr Annan launched a new agency, called the Business Humanitarian Forum. It would be jointly chaired by the UN High Commissioner on Refugees and the president of a company called Unocal. Unocal was, at the time, the only major US company still operating in Burma. It was helping the Burmese government to build a massive gas pipeline, during the construction of which Burmese soldiers tortured and killed local people. "The business community," Annan explained to Unocal, Nestle, Rio Tinto and the other members of the new forum, "is fast becoming one of the UN's most important allies ... That is why the organisation's doors are open to you as never before." Two months later, a leaked memo revealed that the UN Development Programme had accepted $50,000 from each of 11 giant corporations. In return, Nike, Rio Tinto, Shell, BP, Novartis, ABB, Dow Chemical and the other companies would gain privileged access to UNDP offices, acquiring, in the agency's words, "a new and unique vehicle for market development activities", as well as "worldwide recognition for their cooperation with the UN". The UNDP would develop a special UN logo which the companies could put on their products. After fierce campaigning by human rights groups, this scheme was suspended. But in July this year, Mr Annan launched a far more ambitious partnership, a "global compact" with 50 of the world's biggest and most controversial corporations. The companies promised to respect their workers and the environment. This, Annan told them, would "safeguard open markets while at the same time creating a human face for the global economy". The firms which signed his compact would be better placed to deal with "pressure from single-issue groups". Again, they would be allowed to use the UN's logo. But there would be no binding commitments, and no external assessment of how well they were doing. The UN, in other words, appears to be turning itself into an enforcement agency for the global economy, helping western companies to penetrate new markets while avoiding the regulations which would be the only effective means of holding them to account. By making peace with power, the UN is declaring war upon the powerless. © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000 ********************************************************** Aaron Koleszar <•••@••.•••> _____________________________________________________________________ For details of the PrImE Minister's creaming at the hands of PEI Pie Brigade, visit Les Entartistes Website: http://www.entartistes.ca _____________________________________________________________________ FOR THE REAL NEWS ON THE PROTESTS AND DIRECT ACTION AGAINST THE WTO IN SEATTLE, THE IMF/WORLD BANK IN WASHINGTON, THE OAS IN WINDSOR, THE U.S. POLITICAL CONVENTIONS IN PHILADELPHIA AND L.A., AND OTHER PAST AND FUTURE ACTIONS, VISIT: http://www.indymedia.org - The Independenat Media Center (IMC) THEN FOLLOW THE LINKS TO LOCAL IMCS DON'T TRUST THE CORPORATE MEDIA! TV TURNOFF WEEK WAS APRIL 22-30 (KEEP IT OFF!) _____________________________________________________________________ Excerpt From "Statement to the Public by Jailed IMF/World Bank Protestors" Our movement is a small part of a worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood joining in solidarity with all the impoverished, oppressed, and progressive people of earth. For us, breaking the law is not a frivolous gesture, but rather a last-resort means of exposing the immense powers that we all face when we attempt to create real, ethical change. We continue to draw inspiration from the civil rights, anti-nuclear, anti-war, environmental justice, labor rights, and anti-oppression movements. Who are we? We are your sons and daughters, your sisters and brothers, your fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers. We are your co-workers, your fellow parishioners and rabbis, your healers, your teachers, and your students. We will continue to risk arrest, and if necessary resist with our very lives, until we expose this world as one in which profits come before people, so that a more just, humane, and free global society may take its place.