NEWS: UN watchdog agency challenges the Global Compact

Brent Patterson
10 years ago
Global Compact director Georg Kell (left, with beard), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (center), and Coca-Cola executive.

Global Compact director Georg Kell (left, with beard), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (center), and Coca-Cola executive.

In her 2007 book Blue Covenant, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “Both Suez and Veolia are charter members of the United Nations Global Compact, an initiative to encourage corporations to adopt voluntary human rights and environmental standards. The compact has been widely criticized as ‘blue-washing’ for giving UN approval to companies with public relations problems for serious violations in these areas, such as Shell Oil and Nike.” In December 2008, Barlow made news, as the new senior adviser on water to the president of the UN General Assembly, when she again described the Global Compact as little more than ‘blue-washing’. Now, a UN investigative body – the Joint Inspection Unit – is raising in a new report the “sensitive issue of the use of the United Nations brand by companies that may benefit from their association with the organization, without having to prove their conformity with United Nations core values and principles.” And FoxNews.com is reporting that allegations of “…’blue-washing’ – laundering bad behavior in the feel-good background color of the UN….’is a reputational risk that needs to be managed’.” FoxNews.com reports that, “A major initiative currently sponsored by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Global Compact, is being challenged by the world body’s own watchdog agency (the UN Joint Inspection Unit or JIU) as financially opaque, unwilling to police its membership and only questionably effective at accomplishing its mission of winning private-sector adherence to the UN’s anti-corruption, anti-poverty and environmental goals. …(It’s report charges that the Global Compact) presents a potential ‘reputational risk’ for the UN as the Compact pursues a ‘self-expanded’ mandate into areas of public-private partnership never envisaged when it was launched in 2000.” “The JIU analysis is the second bid by the inspectors to spotlight issues with the Compact. The unit made many similar criticisms in a less formal ‘management note’ that was submitted to the Compact roughly a year earlier, and at time, noted that the issue was important enough to the UN to merit additional, extended treatment.” “The inspectors suggest the Global Compact’s corporate initiative needs to be reined in by the UN General Assembly, its finances made more open to scrutiny and its governance overhauled, including the addition of UN member states to the list of those scrutinizing its activities.” “The Global Compact is not an entity like other institutions in the sprawling UN constellation of funds, programs and agencies. It bills itself as a ‘strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.’ About 6,000 of 8,700 Global Compact members in 135 countries are corporations; many others are business or corporate associations.” “The criticisms (from the JIU) drew a heated denial from the Global Compact itself, which charged the watchdogs with willfully distorting the evidence to make its case.” The FoxNews.com full article is at http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/15/uns-watchdog-says-general-assembly-needs-reign-self-expanded-global-compact/?test=latestnews.