On January 31, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called on business leaders to join in "a global compact of shared values and principles" with the U.N. Sixteen corporations have joined the U.N. Development Programme (or UNDP) to form the Global Sustainable Development Facility. According to a UNDP press release, the purpose of this initiative is to "fund investment projects to help poor countries meet social, environmental and human development needs." Each of the participating companies is paying $50,000 to the UNDP, and other corporations have plans to sponsor the project as well.
Critics of the project are concerned that the U.N. initiative has little to do with alleviating global poverty. Corporate watchdog groups say that many of the companies participating in the UNDP project have a poor track record on human rights, labor and the environment. Further, critics believe that sponsorship would give corporations unprecedented access to contacts within U.N. and government circles. Recently, Corporate Watch released a report that cites financial troubles at the U.N. and the U.S. failure to pay $1.6 billion in back dues as a pretext for soliciting the business community.
In a letter to UNDP Administrator Gus Speth, NGO’s from around the world called on the U.N. to discontinue the Global Sustainable Development Facility. The coalition of organizations believes that the independence of the U.N. is at stake.
Democracy NOW! asked representatives from the UNDP, BP Amoco, Royal Dutch Shell, Dow Chemical, ESKOM and Novartis to participate in the discussion, but they declined our offer.
- John Cavanagh, Director of the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, D.C. based think-tank.
- Kenny Bruno, Research Associate at the Transnational Resource and Action Center, and author of "Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism."
- Professor Upendra Baxi, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Delhi and a visiting professor of law at New York University.