Fr. Pacte mondial

Actors, association, civil society, commons

A major weakness of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was the dismantling of the notion of regulating the private business and financial sector, especially Transnational corporations. In its place was the notion of business as a partner in sustainable development, on par with all other “stakeholders”. Today, in a world that is more unequal, with a small number of Transnational corporations dominating each sector and exerting tremendous influence over Governments, this concept of “partnership and stakeholders” perpetuates the myth that there is a collective endeavour, and that all players are equal and conflicts of interest can be resolved by roundtables seeking consensus. Significant examples of involvement with multi-stakeholder operational partnerships are the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization or the UNHCR Partnership in Action.

In other cases, such as the Global Compact initiated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, many NGOs are extremely concerned over the extensive privilege granted to the world’s largest transnational corporations. Many of these have unacceptable environmental and human rights records, and the Compact underscores the inequities faced by developing countries, civil society and nongovernmental and people’s organizations at the negotiating table and at decision-making venues. Some governments have also voiced similar concerns. There are concerns that the corporate partnerships between UN agencies and big business (in addition to the Global Compact) will create more unequal participatory relations among the various major groups. This could undermine public confidence in the United Nations and efforts to implement sustainable development that is people-centred. Many NGOs and other civil society partners are thus calling for a dissolution or substantial redesign of the Global Compact and have written a number of assessment reports to monitor the members of the Global Compact.

Generally, there has been some progress at the local level (especially by communities and

some local governments with active NGO participation in many cases), the overall prognosis is negative. At the global level, there has been improved access for civil society and progress in concluding the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Kyoto Protocol

and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and other multilateral environmental agreements, as well as the ICC. But, as a whole, the implementation of such agreements has been disappointing. In almost every case, there is even weakening if not outright rejection of the spirit and letter of multilateral environmental agreements by certain countries. Instead, the globalization paradigm with its free market-driven liberalization has overtaken multi-stakeholder agreements.

As to the Global Compact, UNRISD studies observe that there seems to be an emerging academic and policy consensus on the need to develop more rigorous methodologies for assessing the impacts of public-private partnerships in the fields of service delivery, poverty reduction and political participation (Thomsen 2007). Impact assessments are seen as necessary for guiding policy makers, stakeholders and PPP analysts in determining under which conditions a PPP is an appropriate solution. The aim of this programme is for hundreds of companies, trade unions and other civil society organizations throughout the world to advance ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption under the banner of the UN:

-          Human rights: 1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and 2. make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses;

-          labour standards: businesses should uphold 3. the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; 4.the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour; 4. the effective abolition of child labour; and 6.the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation;

-          environment: businesses should 7. support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges; 8. undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and 9.encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies;

-          anti-corruption: businesses should 10. work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery. 

However, the head of the Global Compact acknowledged that no systematic effort had been made in evaluating the net impact of initiatives undertaken within the compact, which is a purely voluntary initiative. In the absence of such evidence, concerned communities are asked to stay cheerful and trust the good intentions of partners involved with the Global compact.

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