Senior business executives, international labour leaders and key members of
civil society organizations tackle strategy and governance
New York, 8 January
In a major step towards strengthening Secretary-General Kofi Annan's expanding "Global Compact" initiative – which promotes action in support of nine internationally accepted principles on human rights, labour rights, and the environment – the first meeting of its Advisory Council convened today, bringing together senior business executives, international labour leaders, and heads of civil society organizations from across the world.
The unprecedented meeting marked the creation of the first UN advisory body composed of both public and private sector leaders, who together will assist the Secretary-General in his effort to promote cooperative solutions to the dilemmas and challenges of globalization.
The Global Compact, an entirely voluntary initiative, has attracted the participation of several hundred companies from countries such as Russia, China, Brazil, India, Germany, Norway, Indonesia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other UN member states from both North and South.
"The world is currently involved in an ongoing historical experiment: attempting to create a truly global and inclusive market" Secretary-General Annan said in his opening remarks to the members of the Advisory Council. "The outcome of this experiment depends increasingly on the foresight and political will of leaders in all sectors of society to find pragmatic solutions that transcend ideologies."
"We must work to underpin the marketplace with solid and stable foundations," the Secretary-General continued, "and open the door to full participation by all people, including and especially the world's poor. The Global Compact gives us a tool for achieving that."
"What began as a speech in Davos three years ago has grown into a worldwide movement engaging the private sector, labour, civil society and the United Nations," said Mr. Annan, referring to his 1999 World Economic Forum address, which generated an overwhelming response that led to the creation of the Global Compact in July, 2000.
"Good progress has been made in many areas," said Mr. Annan. "More and more companies are responding to the call, changing strategies and actions to inform entrepreneurship with society's needs. Projects and initiatives are being launched in such wide-ranging areas as investment in least-developed countries, diversity in the work-place, and environmental protection. A collective effort is under way to establish a culture and practice of pragmatic solution-finding through cooperation."
The Secretary-General challenged the Advisory Council to "think creatively about measures that might enhance the quality and concrete impact of participation in the Compact." He also called on the Council to recruit new members and serve as champions for the initiative internationally; to make recommendations on standards of participation that will help protect the integrity of the Global Compact; and to offer suggestions on how to most effectively channel the rapidly growing interest in the Compact around the world. The 17 members of Advisory Council--all acting in their individual, rather than institutional capacities--have been asked by the Secretary-General to serve rotating terms of two and three years. The Advisory Council will convene for formal meetings twice per year.
Following an open discussion with Mr. Annan about the goals and objectives of the Global Compact, participants in today's meeting closely examined current operations as well as the procedures and policies governing participation. They then divided into two groups for further in-depth discussions prior to reconvening again with the Secretary-General to brief him on specific recommendations for his consideration.
Barbara Krumsiek, President and CEO of Calvert, a global investment fund, underscored the importance of the gathering. "The establishment of an Advisory Council is a vital next step in extending the principles of the Global Compact to a broader corporate community. The Council helps ensure that principles of inclusion are central to the Global Compact initiative and reviewed in an independent and critical way," she said.
Fred Higgs, General Secretary of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions, said "The Global Compact, like any successful voluntary initiative, needs to be a dynamic, credible process, subject to ongoing review and development. I believe the advisory process is extremely important to ensure that the Global Compact continues to be relevant and credible."
Members of the Advisory Council said that issues falling under the aegis of the Global Compact were increasingly critical to the stability of the international economy. "Every day billions of people are affected by business decisions – be it in the realm of employment, environment or human rights," observed Achim Steiner, Director-General of the World Conservation Union.
"Kofi Annan recognized the need for facilitating a new understanding of how business can not only profit from development, but also assume greater responsibility for its role in achieving a more sustainable development path," Mr. Steiner added. "The Global Compact offers all of us an opportunity to test how close or how far we are from achieving a new consensus."
Council member Marjorie Yang, Chairman of the Esquel Group of Companies, one of the world's leading textile and garment manufacturers, argued that globalization has collapsed many of the boundaries--both real and perceived--that previously demarcated the world economy. "Every first world country has a third world city in its midst," she said. "Every third world country has the makings to create a first world city. If globalization is to have any meaning, it is the aim to foster mutual sharing of knowledge and gains."
Dr. Rolf E. Breuer, CEO of Deutsche Bank AG and one of the international business leaders appointed to the Advisory Council by the Secretary-General, noted the fragility of the international trading system. "Globabalization is now at a precarious stage," he said, invoking the vision of an inclusive world economy articulated by the United Nations Secretary-General. "Most importantly we must understand the fundamental truth in what Kofi Annan said in Davos last year, 'if we cannot make globalization work for all, in the end it will work for no one.'"
The Global Compact Advisory Council has been designed as an inter-disciplinary body reflecting a diverse rage of views and interests. Businesses leaders serving on the Advisory Council include--in addition to Ms. Krumsiek, Ms. Yang, and Dr. Breuer-- Robert Hormats, Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs; Sam Jonah, Chief Executive, Ashanti Goldfields Company Limited; Namakau Kaingu, CEO, Kaingu Mines; Mark M. Moody-Stewart, retired CEO, Royal Dutch Shell; N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman and CEO, Infosys Technologies Limited; Wolfgang Sauer, retired CEO, VW of Brazil; Marjorie Scardino, CEO, Pearson plc and David Bell, Executive Director, Pearson plc.
The Advisory Council's labour leaders are Mr. Higgs, and Bill Jordan, General Secretary, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
Leaders of civil society organizations and academic experts, in addition to
Mr. Steiner, include Irene Khan, Secretary-General, Amnesty International and
Colm O'Cuanachain, Chairperson of Amnesty International's Executive Committee;
Jessica Mathews, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and
Professor John Ruggie, of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard
The Permanent Representatives of five United Nations Member States – from both North and South – are serving on the Advisory Council in their personal capacity, as observers.