Thursday, July 27, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Time or Treatment?
2000-07-27

The Nike Swoosh Meets the UN Olive Branch

download:   Audio Get CD/DVD More Formats
DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

The Nike Swoosh on the UN flag? Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, yesterday unveiled a UN-corporate collaboration which will facilitate the entry and trade opportunities for some of the world’s largest corporations in developing countries. Corporations such as Nike, Shell, Rio Tinto and Dupont are just some of the signatories to this new UN Global Compact. The UN says that this is the way to regulate corporations and their practices in developing countries. Critics say the corporations will cloak themselves in the UN flag without any commitment to change or guarantees to uphold human rights. [includes rush transcript]

Guests:

  • Josh Karliner, the head of TRAC, the Transnational Resource and Action Center, which publishes Corporate Watch magazine. They have played a leading role against the UN-corporate partnership.
  • Vicky Tulai-Corpuz, Executive Director of Tebtebba Foundation, an indigenous organization in the Philippines.
  • Pierre Sane, Secretary General of Amnesty International, one of the endorsers of the Global Compact.
  • Maria Eitel, Vice President of the Nike Corporation.
  • Georg Kell, represents the Secretary-General’s Office of the United Nations.

Related Links:

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

The Nike Swoosh on the UN flag? Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, yesterday unveiled a UN-corporate collaboration, which will facilitate the entry and trade opportunities for some of the world’s largest corporations in developing countries. Corporations like Nike, Shell, Rio Tinto and Dupont are just some of the signatories to this new UN Global Compact. The UN says that this is the way to regulate corporations and their practices in developing countries. Critics say the corporations will cloak themselves in the UN flag without any commitment to change or guarantees to uphold human rights. After the UN Secretary-General made his statement, he was questioned by reporters.

    REPORTER: Secretary-General, as you know, there are some NGOs obviously organized — participating in your Global Compact. But there are others that have been critical from the outside, and I think the main criticism from outside the tent, if you like, is that the UN is being either naïve or misguided in allowing these big corporations to wrap themselves in the UN flag and that this is essentially doing a deal with the devil. How do you respond to that?

    KOFI ANNAN:

    Yeah. I think it’s unfortunate that — unfortunate, but also not surprising, that some would have that attitude. I think what we are trying to do here is to encourage corporations, corporations that have considerable influence and reach and power, to work with us in giving meaning to some of these values that their own governments have signed onto and basically telling them we have to work together to make this world a better place. I’m not going to use a famous word — give globalization a human face.

    But basically what we are telling the corporations to do with is, if you accept these values, plug them into your global corporations. Let it become part of your corporate structure and culture. You don’t need a government — to wait for a government to pass laws before you ensure that your operations do not pollute the lake or the water that produces the fish for the people. You don’t need to wait for government to pass laws before you pay a decent wage. You don’t need to wait for governments to pass laws before you refuse to employ children. And asking them to tell us what they are doing. And this will be posted on the web.

    REPORTER: Secretary-General, how would you explain to people of the third world and people in underdeveloped countries, to whom some of these corporations actually represent abuses of human rights, to people who’ve lost family members because of these corporations, how would you explain to them that the United Nations, a symbol maybe of peace to many people, is actually entering into collaborations with large corporations?

    KOFI ANNAN:

    I think I would put your question the other way: Why is the UN — if you — why is the UN cooperating with the big corporations? We are cooperating with them for the reasons that I’ve said, for the influence they have, the reach they have, the impact the activities has on the lives of the people that you’re talking about.

    I’m not sure if the sort of discussions we are having had been persistent and had gone on over the past twenty, ten years, that some of the people who have suffered may not have been spared. The fact that some of these companies may have made mistakes, may have done the wrong things, does not mean that we should not encourage them and work with them in moving in the right directions and doing the right things and being sensitive to the needs of the people in the society in which they operate.

AMY GOODMAN:

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaking yesterday at the United Nations and being questioned by reporters about the new Global Compact, a collaboration between the United Nations and multinational corporations.

We’re joined right now by a roundtable of people, representative of the United Nations, of Nike Corporation and anti-corporate globalization activists. We’ll start with Maria Eitel, who is vice president of the Nike Corporation. What do you hope to get out of this?

MARIA EITEL:

Well, Nike’s optimistic that this is a really important first step that’s being taken. It’s the first time, really, that a global initiative has been put in place for companies to make progress on their impact, where they do business. And there’s been other attempts, but this one, we think, really has a chance to succeed. And again, it’s a first step. There’s a lot more that needs to happen.

AMY GOODMAN:

Josh Karliner is on the phone with us from San Francisco. He’s head of TRAC, the Transnational Resource and Action Center. What are your concerns?

JOSH KARLINER:

Well, we’re part of a global coalition of organizations and networks that wrote Secretary-General Kofi Annan two days ago, basically explaining to him that we are supporters of the United Nations, that we believe that the United Nations has a very important role to play as a countervailing force to corporate-led globalization, and therefore we’re extremely disappointed in the direction that the UN is going with this Global Compact, primarily for three reasons: first of all, the philosophy; secondly, the context in which this compact is taking place; and third, its lack of enforceability or lack of teeth.

The philosophy that the Secretary-General and high-ranking UN officials who have sold this agreement to the corporations is, is that — what they’re saying to the corporations is, or they’re saying to the world is that what’s good for Nike is good for the rest of the world. And we simply don’t agree with that. We see that corporate-led globalization and the activities of companies like Nike and Royal Dutch Shell and Rio Tinto and biotechnology leader Novartis are in fact having serious environmental and labor and human rights impacts around the world, and these companies are buying into or participating in this agreement as a way to distort or obfuscate their impacts on these very rights that the Secretary-General so correctly wants to promote.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re also joined by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, who’s with the Third World Network and executive director of the Tebtebba Foundation in the Philippines. You’re in New York dealing with this issue.

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ:

Yes, presently. I’m actually here for another reason, but I happen to be here, so I was asked to come around and say something about this whole Global Compact.

AMY GOODMAN:

And this has been in the works for a few years. How have you been taking it on?

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ:

Well, because I’m with the Third World Network and I’m also with an indigenous people’s organization, we have been monitoring very rigidly the operations of multinational corporations in indigenous people’s communities, whether in the Philippines or in other parts of the world. And we have been doing some research on how like foreign direct investments or transnational behavior has been impacting on our peoples.

AMY GOODMAN:

And what do you think this compact will mean?

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ:

Well, I’m quite worried about the compact, because, while on the one hand it might be good to really bring them in and regulate them from the UN side, but on the other hand, I think it’s sometimes more advantageous for the corporations, because it gives them a better image, when in fact in many of our countries, some of these, the ones who sign onto the compacts, are the ones who have really violated many of our rights and also caused environmental degradation. I can cite, for example, Rio Tinto-Zinc, which has also been —

AMY GOODMAN:

Rio Tinto?

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ:

Yeah. Rio Tinto-Zinc, which has been in the Philippines, and in fact last year they stopped their operations because of the protests of the peoples, the indigenous peoples in the southern part of the Philippines. And then Placer Dome, which is also signatory, is a mining company in Canada. It has polluted one of the rivers in the middle part, in the low zone, and when it was going to be sued, it left. It just sold all its stocks and left the country. You know, so these are the kinds of behavior that we see from these corporations, and I wonder whether, by bringing them into the UN, we will be able to regulate those kinds of behavior.

AMY GOODMAN:

Georg Kell, you represent the UN Secretary-General’s office. What about these concerns? The Global Compact does not have any mandatory component to it, with corporations like Nike, etc., so if they violate human rights, and they’re carrying the UN logo, as well as their own, what is the UN going to do about it?

GEORG KELL:

OK. I have to make two or three comments to clarify, because there’s a lot of misconception out there, and people are making judgment even before giving us even a chance to show what we are doing. So I want to make two clarifications first. The compact is not between UN and business. It is between UN, labor and NGOs. The International Confederation of Trade Unions, the biggest labor organized force, with 134 million people, is on board. We have the three biggest human rights NGOs on board: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Lawyers’ Committee. We have the biggest environmental NGOs on board: WWF, IUCN, and many more. So this is not UN-business. This is an attempt of a new dialogue. We do what we can. We have limits as the UN, because we don’t have monitoring mandate. This, only governments can do. We are striking a balance here between conflicting forces trying to move forward.

We appreciate the role of those out there who are basically protesting, but we are saying protest is good, but not enough. You also have to build something out of it. And this is what the Global Compact is all about. And I would urge all those who are now sitting on a fence and throwing stones without even looking at what it is to give us just a break, a little bit, and have a look at really what we are about and what we are doing, before spelling judgment just for the sake of grabbing some headlines.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, we have to break for stations to identify themselves. But when we come back, I want to ask you exactly how it will work, for example, with a particular project, and we’ll get response from all of our guests. Georg Kell represents the UN Secretary-General; Josh Karliner is with Transnational Resource and Action Center; Maria Eitel is vice president of Nike; and Vicky Tauli-Corpuz is executive director of Tebtebba Foundation, an indigenous group in the Philippines. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute, talking about the Global Compact that has been established at the United Nations. And after this conversation, we’re going to be speaking with Congressmember John Conyers about a new study that says one-in-four people in prison are there for drug-related activities. While the number of violent criminals in prison have doubled over the last decade, the number of nonviolent drug offenders has increased by eleven-fold, by twenty-five times in California. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN:

You are the listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, the Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman, as we talk about the Global Compact, which was just announced yesterday by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which is a collaboration between the United Nations, multinational corporations and labor and some human rights groups. We’re joined on the telephone and in the studio by a representative of a number of these. Maria Eitel is with Nike Corporation; she’s vice president. Vicky Tauli-Corpuz is with the Third World Network. She’s from the Philippines. We’re joined by a representative of the UN Secretary-General’s office, Georg Kell, and Josh Karliner of the Transnational Resource and Action Center, which is one of the groups that is playing a leading role attacking the Global Compact that has been established.

Georg Kell, give us an example of how you see this operating in a particular project.

GEORG KELL:

Yes. I can give, actually, quite a number of them. The best one is probably a dialogue we are about to do in a very serious matter. It’s the role of business in zones of conflict. We all know about the diamond story, and there’s tremendous opportunity here for the UN to fill some governance void out there, because no governments are willing to take action at the global level in this area now. So we feel we have some legitimacy to bring some order into that, and we have the convening power to bring all the parties on the table. So we are basically trying to make the best use of that, and there’s a huge demand out there for filling this void, simply because governments are not up to their job.

And I want to make another point here which is very important: if you look at the world and if you look at where the misery comes from, you will find two answers to it. One is governments failing their own people, and the other one is poverty. Poverty is the worst crime of humanity, and people are poor not because of companies; they are poor because they don’t have employment. I want just to make an appeal to all those who are out there to understand the basics of development. And I would be pleased to have a special talk with you on that on another occasion.

AMY GOODMAN:

Josh Karliner, you’ve raised a number of issues in letters to the United Nations along with other groups — your group, the Transnational Resource and Action Center — and one of them had specifically to do with Nike, around its relationships with universities. Can you talk about that, because we do have a Nike representative who can answer some of the questions you’ve got.

JOSH KARLINER:

Yes, I’d like to — first I’d like to respond to Mr. Kell very briefly, which is that he correctly pointed out this compact is between the United Nations, labor, non-governmental organizations and corporations. However, what we saw yesterday when this thing was launched is that there’s a significant divide between labor and the activist groups that are there, like Amnesty International, and the corporations. And that divide comes between, or comes around the issue of enforceability and monitoring of this compact. The activist groups, the labor groups, the human rights groups were almost all saying there needs to be effective monitoring and enforcement of human rights, labor and environmental standards that the Global Compact stands for. The corporations are looking for a voluntary way out, and that’s where our criticism comes in. And so, we were glad to see, in fact, a lot of the groups that are portrayed as part of this Global Compact, many of whom just came to observe yesterday, making that point.

In terms of Nike, I think it’s actually —- Nike’s role as the sort of poster child for sweatshops is something to look at in the case of the Global Compact, because here’s a corporation with significant PR clout that’s come in and is now associating itself with the United Nations. If it gets involved, for instance, in projects with the United Nations and doesn’t like it, we may see similar behavior to what it’s just recently done to a number of universities in the United States. In other words, there’s something called the Workers’ Rights Consortium, which is an independent monitoring group established to begin to verify the conditions inside factories like Nike’s and Reebok’s and Adidas’s around the world that are producing shoes and clothing. This Workers’ Right Consortium is something that a number of universities began to sign onto, and as these universities began to sign onto it, Nike began to withdraw its contracts and funding. So Nike withdrew a $30 million personal donation to the University of Oregon after the U of O joined the WRC. Nike also cut multi-million-dollar contracts with the University of Michigan and Brown University after they joined the WRC. Nike, of course, denies any connection, but it happened right after these groups joined the Workers’ Rights Consortium.

So first of all, Nike doesn’t seem to be interested in independent monitoring it can’t control. And secondly, what’s going to happen to the UN, as it becomes increasingly dependent on corporate participation in some of these projects, if the companies don’t like the approach of these joint projects and they begin to exert their political and economic power over the United Nations? And this is something that really concerns us, because more -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Right. Let’s—

GEORG KELL:

Listen, one clarification.

AMY GOODMAN:

Let’s take two points at a time. One we’ll get from the UN spokesperson, and one we’ll get from Nike.

GEORG KELL:

First, no single dollar involved. The UN does not accept a single dollar from the corporate community. We are all financed by government regular assessed contributions, to make that very clear. So all allusions of buying or so are just misguided. Secondly —

JOSH KARLINER:

The UN will begin to do joint projects with corporations under the new guidelines that have been issued and, in fact, is doing joint projects with corporations already in a number of different places.

GEORG KELL:

The UN has been doing work with business every since it was created in many, many areas. There’s nothing new about it.

JOSH KARLINER:

Oh, but it’s significantly changed in the last two or three years.

GEORG KELL:

Yes, because governments are significantly failing to live up to their job.

JOSH KARLINER:

And this is — I mean, this is part — you know, this is something that we’ve been saying over and over again, as well, which is that, in fact, one of the biggest problems here is the United States government. The United States government is in arrears of about a billion dollars in its dues, and what we’re sort of witnessing here, I think, is sort of an NPR syndrome, if you will. In other words, here’s the UN, a very important public institution, that is being denied the funds it needs and is increasingly being forced to turn to the private sector, perhaps not for direct money, but for political support.

GEORG KELL:

No, not for political support. For action on the ground. We want to do the —

JOSH KARLINER:

But the Secretary-General went to the US Chamber of —

GEORG KELL:

Let me make — let me make one more thing here. I would want to make an appeal to all those activists out there really to really have a fresh look at the world again and see what can be done, because what I would love to see, especially in the US, is people getting up and standing up and going to Washington and saying, “You guys, live up to your responsibility. You deny the poor access to your markets. You squeeze them out. You fail to finance debt relief. You just make big words. You’re failing them. You’re condemning them to poverty. The level of official development assistance in the US is at a shamelessly low level.” These are the big issues, so I wish there would be more advocacy in the US concerted on these issues.

JOSH KARLINER:

Right there, we agree with you completely, Mr. Kell.

GEORG KELL:

But then do it, please, because I don’t see it happen in the US really. I see it in the UK; I see it in Europe. There, the NGOs have a more comprehensive responsibility of the world, and they’re not just sitting on the fence.

AMY GOODMAN:

Let’s go to this issue, the first point that Josh Karliner raised, for example, about Nike withdrawing its support from universities that joined the Workers’ Rights Consortium. I covered the day that it was established in New York just a few months ago with universities like the University of California, the entire system joining the Workers’ Rights Consortium and the vice chancellor representing them. What about Nike withdrawing its supports?

MARIA EITEL:

Well, I need to respond to a number of things that have been said. It is true that Nike has become the symbol of what’s right and what needs fixing in these issues, and I think it’s become very convenient to use Nike on this issue, because it has become a shorthand.

But what we need to do is look at some facts here. We should look at what Nike’s actually done over the last three years in its factories. And we’ve raised the age limits in our factories to eighteen in our footwear factories and sixteen in our apparel and equipment factories. We’ve gone to OSHA air quality standards in our factories. We’ve increased wages in Indonesia, as there’s been trouble there. We’ve started to use independent NGOs in our monitoring. We are doing auditing in all of our factories and then posting that information on our website. If people question what’s really going on in a Nike factory, I invite them to go to nikebiz.com, and they can see for themselves what’s going on. They can see what remediation programs have been put in place. Nike has disclosed the locations of its university factories. We have done a number of things, and I would challenge anyone to find a company that has more aggressively attacked the problems that are caused by the global supply chain system in the global economy.

AMY GOODMAN:

Josh Karliner?

JOSH KARLINER:

Well, I mean, I think the important thing to look at here is that when Nike’s responded, they’ve responded under major public pressure to respond. They haven’t done so voluntarily because they sat down in a room with the United Nations or others and agreed to adhere to a series of principles.

But secondly, you know, what Nike’s done is it has some serious shortcomings. Let me give you one example here, which is that in 1997 TRAC released an Ernst & Young audit of a Nike factory in Vietnam, and that audit was sort of the smoking gun in the whole debate around the sweatshop practices of Nike. Nike, up ’til that point, had denied that the conditions were as bad as they were in their sweatshops. And when we released this audit, it forced Nike to begin to address some of the issues that Maria Eitel was talking about.

However, if you look at that audit, which you can find on our website at corpwatch.org — it’s a little bit buried now, but we’ll try to bring it up in the next day or so so you can find it —- but if you look at that audit, you can see there’s a summary on the front page of that audit. And that summary doesn’t really tell you anything. It looks like things are OK. It’s only when you get into reading the next ten pages of the audit that you find there’s toluene and that there’s wage and hour violations and that there’s a series of problems. But what Nike’s posting on its website and what it continues to do is just post the summaries of their PricewaterhouseCoopers audit.

And so, we really don’t know. They haven’t really disclosed what’s going on in their sweatshops. They’ve made improvements. They’ve switched to new chemicals, they say. They have not disclosed publicly what the chemicals are that they’ve switched to and what they’re composed of. So -—

MARIA EITEL:

Can I — there’s just inaccuracies there, Josh. We —- after that report was posted and we’ve spent time -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Nike Vice President Maria Eitel.

MARIA EITEL:

—- with people from your organization, actually taking them to our factories, and they’ve done reports on the work there, so we’ve completely opened up our doors to your organization, specifically, to come and analyze and see the progress that’s been made in those factories. But I think it’s important that for the -— this is about the Global Compact and about partnership, and we should look at what has worked when it comes to partnership. And these issues, in terms of — we want to — we understand the issues from the past. We’ve listened, and we’ve learned, and we’re constantly working to improve.

To me, the question is what are the companies that are not at the table at the Global Compact, and I think what the UN is trying to do is say, “We’ve got to get people, we’ve got to get companies and trade unions and NGOs and everyone working together to solve these issues,” because one company and one of those different organizations is not going to solve everything. And you will always be able to find problems within companies. And what matters is, is a company committed to improvement?

AMY GOODMAN:

Maria Eitel, do you plan to, since you are at the table with some of the human rights groups and the United Nations, put together the Nike Swoosh with the UN logo in the projects you’re working on together?

MARIA EITEL:

Well, we hope to work with all the organizations that are involved here on projects. If it improves people’s lives and improves the conditions —

AMY GOODMAN:

But truly, I mean, because that’s so significant. I mean, the power of the Nike Swoosh is known around the world. Is that something that’s happening in your joint projects, the Nike Swoosh and the UN olive branch?

MARIA EITEL:

I’m not sure exactly what you mean, putting those two things together. We have signed onto the principles of the Global Compact, and we’ll do everything we can to live up to those. And we’ll be involved in projects.

AMY GOODMAN:

Georg Kell of the United Nations?

GEORG KELL:

Yeah, I want to make two further clarifications here. One is, in the Global Compact we have now about fifty companies, about 150 million labor, and, I don’t know, 200 million NGOs, if you so want. The company choice, we did not make as such. We welcome every company, because what we are is what we call a learning model. Since we do not have the capacity and the mandate to make assessment of corporate performance per se, all we can do is work, challenge to its improvement, and we do it through a dialogue where all constituencies are involved. And we have very strong corporate participation from Brazil, from South Africa, from Pakistan, from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, China and many more coming. So this is a global effort. I have to make that very clear. This is not something that is focused just on northern transnationals. No.

This is about minimum behavior in the corporate world based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the fundamental rights at work and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. These are universal principles that are applicable everywhere. So just to make that clear, this is not something for blue washing, to get branding or anything like this. This is an attempt to build into the global market the universal values that are out there on fine paper but remain largely not implemented, largely because of government failure, and I have to repeat that. I think the target we have here, or some have here, is a bit the wrong one sometimes. But we should talk about this another time.

AMY GOODMAN:

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz?

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ:

Yeah. Well, I think that the kind of effort is laudable, in terms of really bringing these big corporations. But, you know, everybody knows about the human rights declarations, the human rights charter. It doesn’t need for, you know, the UN to really bring these groups. I mean, the companies are the most powerful entities in the world today, and they are given enough space all over. You know, they have the IMF, they have the World Bank, and they really have all that space to be able to change if they would like to.

And just to pick up from what Josh has said, many of these companies have changed their behavior precisely because of the pressure that has been exerted from the communities where they are operating, and this has caught international public opinion, and they are really forced to change. And I think that’s very good that the UN is picking up on that and pressuring them further.

The problem I have is that, you know, these are really very powerful companies, and even if we say that governments are to be faulted for this, we have to also know that companies, the corporations, are also part of making government laws. You know, in the Philippines, for instance, that’s why the Nike or other companies come in. It’s because the export processing zones that we have have all these laws which says that they are not allowed to —- unions are not allowed to be formed, you know, this or that. There are all these laws which are very low standards, and that is good for the companies. And in the Philippines, when martial law was declared, that was one of the conditions that these companies had so that they would be able to enter the countries. You know, so this -—

AMY GOODMAN:

Georg Kell, what about that —

GEORG KELL:

Yeah, I fully agree with all that.

AMY GOODMAN:

— that point, but the specific point that when you talk about countries are failing, and so we’re going to go to the powers that be, perhaps the corporations, to improve things. The corporations often rely on the lax environmental regulation or the militaries of these governments to go after union activists.

GEORG KELL:

Absolutely. And this is actually why we launched the whole compact. Please go back to Kofi Annan’s initial speech on that. We made it very clear that the only trick we’re doing here with the compact is that we are saying companies, because they have such a power and reach now, also should share in the responsibility. The compact is an attempt to balance economic rights with social responsibilities. And we are using these principles, which usually are going addressed to governments, we’re saying, “Listen, companies, you now have such a reach, you don’t have to wait for every government to be perfect to use UN —

AMY GOODMAN:

What kind of enforcement power do you have in dealing with corporations?

GEORG KELL:

It’s raising the profile of taking a public stand. It is transparency. We put it all on our website what we have and let the dynamics play and let the dialogue play,

AMY GOODMAN:

Would the UN then criticize, for example, Nike for allowing Indonesian soldiers to be in their plants?

GEORG KELL:

We have no monitoring capacity. We are not allowed to do that. I have to repeat that governments are keeping a close eye on us not to do so. We can do an advocacy role for these principles, and we can bring it up to the agenda everywhere, so to speak. And we can also bring in more companies to even recognize that there are human rights out there. Yesterday, for instance, for the first time ever, the big financial institutions said publicly in a testimony that human rights are important for our credit business, and this is a breakthrough. We are broadening the whole movement.

AMY GOODMAN:

Josh Karliner?

JOSH KARLINER:

Yeah. I mean, first of all, I just want to respond very quickly to something that Maria Eitel from Nike said, which is that she allowed someone from our organization into her plants, into Nike’s plants in Vietnam. And just to clarify, out of respect for the people who went into the plant, when they went into the plants and when they were talking to Nike, they were not working with our organization. I just wanted to make that very clear.

But just to respond to this discussion that’s going on about these companies voluntarily taking on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, Shell, which is a member of the Global Compact, has the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on its website, and it’s had it there for awhile. Back in 1992 — it was during the Earth Summit — it joined the Business Council for Sustainable Development, which was espousing all of these same principles. So basically for the last eight to ten years, Shell has been espousing all of the principles that Mr. Kell’s talking about publicly. That didn’t help Ken Saro-Wiwa in Ogoniland, and this is precisely what our concern is about the Global Compact.

AMY GOODMAN:

The Nigerian activist that was killed as he protested Shell.

GEORG KELL:

I respect that point.

JOSH KARLINER:

May I continue, please?

GEORG KELL:

But listen, this was ’97 that Shell, for the first time ever, said human rights are important. And the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and all the mainstream business papers declared Shell crazy for doing that.

JOSH KARLINER:

And Shell [inaudible] in the Financial Times, they’ve got very sophisticated propaganda.

GEORG KELL:

In ’97, this was in response —- they were declared crazy. They were declared crazy for doing so. And, you know, what’s the business of business besides doing business? That’s what the mainstream business argued. And that’s what Chicago School is still arguing. And we are saying -—

JOSH KARLINER:

If I can continue to make my point, Mr. Kell, my point is that Shell’s very sophisticated, just as Nike is in its PR and its marketing. And what our concern is, just to try to clarify a couple of our concerns here and why there’s this global coalition of groups that’s very concerned about the direction the UN is going with the Global Compact, is that a company like Shell could enter into a collaborative project, an on-the-ground project, with the United Nations agency in Nigeria, for instance. They could, say, work on putting together a school to educate people in the Niger Delta and to promote literacy. It’s at that point that the Shell logo and the UN logo could go, under the new guidelines that the UN’s issued, could actually be used together. And that potentially could then be used in a global advertising campaign by Shell, saying, “Look at the literacy we’re promoting in Nigeria.” Meanwhile, they continue to suck billions of dollar of oil out of Nigeria and engender poverty and environmental destruction.

GEORG KELL:

Life is not free of risks, my friend. Leadership is all about taking risks.

JOSH KARLINER:

Well, that’s a risk that I think people like yourself wouldn’t be willing to take with Shell Oil, which has undermined their livelihoods for the last thirty years.

AMY GOODMAN:

On that note, we have to wrap up the discussion. If people want to get more information on the Global Compact, where can they go on the web?

GEORG KELL:

Visit our website, www.unglobalcompact.org. By the way, you have a live media cast of yesterday’s session on there with a full flavor of all opinions voiced there.

AMY GOODMAN:

And Josh Karliner of the Transnational Resource Center — Transnational Resource and Action Center.

JOSH KARLINER:

You can go to our Corporate Watch website. It’s www.corpwatch.org. You can see all the international organizations that have signed onto this letter, the letter itself and the background and critique of Global Compact. And again, I’d like to just say that this is all done in the spirit of support of the United Nations and with great respect for Kofi Annan.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, Josh Karliner of TRAC. Maria Eitel, the Nike Corporation website?

MARIA EITEL:

Nikebiz.com. N-I-K-E-B-I-Z dot com.

AMY GOODMAN:

And Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Third World Network and Tebtebba Foundation.

VICTORIA TAULI CORPUZ: I thank you very much, and I think it’s always important to have NGOs outside and inside, and we will still play our role in terms of monitoring both the corporations and now the UN in how they will implement this Global Compact.

AMY GOODMAN:

On that note, we want to thank you all for being with us.

Show Full Transcript ›
‹ Hide Full Transcript

Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.