"Globalization is about the privatization of powergovernments are doing less and
more is going into the private sector [corporations]"
Mary Robinson - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Eric Schmidt - Novell, CEO -
Sir Robert Wilson - Executive Chairman - Rio Tinto
Robert Morrison - NetAid Foundation
New Beginnings to Make a Difference - role of Internet in performing Good Corporate Citizenship
I am very pleased and honored to repre. S-G Kofi Annan in the launch of this web sight for Global compact. A year ago in Davos, S-G Annan launched an initiative of seeking to engage corporations in a commitment to a global compact. He gave thee of us in the UN system, and I am here with them fulfilling my responsibility. The commitment was to have corporations examine how they can commit to the support of and furtherance of human rights, labor standards, and of environmental protection. The 3 agencies, Juan Somavia and Klaus Topher on behalf of UNEP were asked to follow through on this.
It is interesting with regard to how much has happened in the last twelve months. There have been more contacts than at any other time with corporations, NGOs, trade unions (Bill Jordan is here, reprs.... ) and my office has produced a progress report called, "Business and Human Rights: A Progress Report." It shows some of the ways in which business has engaged, has developed codes of conduct has decided to have some degree of monetary accountability, the external auditing, the links with the NGOs and human rights community and the widening of the circle of stakeholders.
When I arrived in Davos, I went to the NGO forum, "Public Eye on Davos" and I listened to a strong and passionate call for, among other things, an energizing of the whole UN system and part of that energizing is the linksthe way in which we are engaging with the private sector, the importance of it. IN a way globalization is about the privatization of power if we think about it. Governments are doing less and more is indirectly going into the remission of business but because it is in the private sector it is harder to track , it is harder to see that responsibility. That is where we have the tool of this Global Compact websight. Www.unglobalcompact. Org.
It will be a tool which makes the case for business commitment to human rights, labor and the environment standards. It offers managerial tools such as good practice examples and an environmental checklist and documentation matrix for stakeholder interactions. It links business and civil society with organizations worldwide which are involved with related issues and will keep them up to date on new initiatives in the corporate citizenship field so that if corporations want to know who is doing what, what good practice is available, it will be a prime sight and it will be regularly updated. It will have a calendar of events both inside and outside the United Nations system and finally, it integrates the UN data bases on labor, human rights and on the environment. So looking back over 12 months, we have come a long way with conferences and sessions, with discussion, but most of all, corporations are beginning to change their practices, their communication with employees and other stakeholders with regard to giving leadership with regard to human rights, labor standards, and the environment.
Sir Robert Wilson - rio Tinto
advances in good corporate citizenship from business point.
I hope that business can be seen in rising to the challenge which Mary outlined. It certainly seems to me that the corporate social responsibility agenda has been evolving at an astonishing pace over the last 3-4 years. A rapidly increasing number of businesses now publish a statement of their business practice. An increasing number are also publishing reports in both of their environmental performance and their social performance as well. A small but increasing number, including Rio Tinto, have made an explicit statement of commitment to the universal principles in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. What has been most notable to me is that there has been a change in the pattern of relationships between the business sector, the intergovernmental organizations, between governments, and NGOs. The old relationships which were sometimes suspicious and sometimes down right hostile seem to me to be disappearing on all sides with a clear understanding by all parties that the way ahead is a much more collaborative pattern than what we have seen historically.
In this context, I think that the corporate sector is going to actually get a lot of encouragement from the Kofi Annan initiative and the launching of the Global Compact which we see as a classical example of this changing relationship between business sector and other sectors of society.
To comment briefly on my own sector in mining. A large number of companies about 24 at this stage, representing a majority of Western world mining and production are joining together and through the WBCSD are going to be promoting and furthering a project looking at mining minerals and sustainable development. This is a very ambitious project. It 's not just going to be industry participants, we are looking for participation from another of other sectors of society as well, as well as a number of major IGOs and NGOs. We are looking for studies to be undertaken by third parties... its going to be an arms length process....and examining the three mainstreams of corporate responsibility and sustainable development: the economic, environment, and social and that will encompass the two as human rights is a part of it.
I think it is a good example of a sector of industry which recognizes that they have not done everything right in the past and they need to do something right in the future.
Eric Schmidt - Novell
This Global Compact which the S-G promoted a year ago is long over due and as the internet becomes the foundation on how the world communicates with one another and with all of us. This is a wonderful forum and a great opportunity to help define the notion of global corporate citizenship in a new way.
I like to think of the internet as a show case for diversity, all of the interesting things which are going on in the internet which we would not have expected. We begin to hear voices, messages and ideas which have been suppressed and not otherwise available. The combination of having a single digital library for the world, a single communications architecture for the world, where people can express themselves with all their good and noble ideas is a good objective. With this comes a fundamental objective of human rights.
Joan Veon Question:
Madame commission, I think you gave the best definition of globalization as there are lots out there. You said that "globalization is the privatization of powershifting it to the public sector which sums up public-private partnership and reinventing government, something that is going on world wide in all countries. In the U.S., Al gore has been leading an effort in the government to change it and to privatize it. From that shift or that move, we are now seeing the corporations come in and partner with
government on all levels, and you are talking about the international partnerships. Therefore, my question, "As the corporations come in they become partners in governance. Please define corporate governance as it becomes or takes on new responsibilities which governments formerly performed and how it relates to the Compact.
I think your question is central to the whole debate about corporate social responsibility. Let me address it from a human rights perspective. Traditionally international human rights was about focusing on governments committing them to partic9ipating in international treaties and monitoring treaty bodies to see that they would observe their obligations because citizens had to be protected from the power of government and governments had an opportunity to promote the rights and situation of their citizens. This shift poses a very big problem of trying to track and pin and have responsibility for the power which is now exercised in a very different way. Because of the different partnerships and collaboration which has been discussed
which are very necessary in order to ensure that the immense ability to exercise power is also harnessed for social development and for a greater equilibrium in our world, it is going to be extremely important that we have a definition of corporation governance which requires leadership and recognition of the importance of human rights, environmental and labor standards and I would add, issues of development. Corporate governance now means also analyzing the impact of this privatization of this power and the responsibility when exercising power and I think we are groping a bit with exactly how to shape that.
I see a lot of very innovative thinking and it will be useful if we can broaden our discussion and the Public Eye on Davos helps to broaden that discussion.
Q. What were the lessons learned in Seattle and what do corporations need to do?
A. Robinson: We all recognized that Seattle was a wake-up call. Personally I welcomed it. We needed a wake-up call. The gap was widening and the approach to trade regulations was potentially going to accuentiate that problem with a world more demonstratively unfair and less willing and less created structured to those who were more marginalized to have their voice heard and to start the process of closing that gap. We have a real possibility in UNCTAD in Bangkok where we can begin to have a real discussion about that between multinational corporations, governments, and UNCTAD and civil society in the wider senseNGO's, trade unions, corporations, and everybody has a voice in this.
Somavia: Mary is right but it also expresses a malaise. The malaise is not only the issues of social issues of exclusions it goes much beyond. It goes into middle classes where families understand that their children are not going to have the same opportunities they had, and the present economic conditions where no one knows where it is going. The question is who is going to come o ut on top. If you are in manufacturing and industry, you don't really know where your markets are going to be in five or seven years. IN business, companies now have to recycle themselves even before they become mature because in a knowledge based society, they are no longer useful. That type of over arching problems we have not faced for a long time and are not prepared to deal with them. We have structured the debate on how your organize society upon how you divide up the pie which are the traditional issues of winners/losers. This goes much, much deeper in terms of what is happening to human beings and most of these things express themselves in family life. An unemployed person is a very unhappy situation in a family. The great challenge is to think in an integrated way.
Q. If the world is becoming less fair, how can we know that this compact will help us in light of corporations which have grown superficial?
A. Robinson: The concern which you have expressed are correctare NGO's becoming more interested in a public relations exercise has been there from the beginning. It was there particularly traditionally the perception of TNC's has been very negative from the perspective of human rights. Yes, there are violation s and there is a very real needI see it daily in every aspect of what we do in my office, but it is vital that we engage in a dialogue and debate. We want to make the whole approach of large corporations more transparent and we are encouraging where leadership is being given the staking out of clear commitment to furthering human rights, labor standards, and environment protection. That means all of the stakeholders can follow more closely and there is a constitutencies developing. We are seeing more transparency and that will guard against problems. We need to tract this exercise of power and empower those who are affected by this power and to be better protected by the system.
JV Question to Sir Robert - Rio Tinto:
Having covered a number of UN conferences and having studied sustainable development for a number of years now, I am very interested in the fact that you are now interested to link what you do in mining with sustainable development. I understand that the Prince of Wales who has the Prince of Wales Business leaders Forum which centers around sustainable development, do you work with his organization and are any of the activities which are you are involved with related to his organization?
Sir Robert: Yes, we work very closely with that organization, but let us say that the project which I was speaking about in the context of mining is very different in its nature to this sort of project which we have worked on with the PWBLF, although it fits in terms of its philosophy. But this is very much geared towards an industry wanting to define better through a process of dialogue how it needs to change its behavior in terms of its role as we make the transition towards a sustainable development future. So this is reflecting an industry which is very seriously contemplated doing things differently in the future than it has in the past and I hope that the whole process will dispel some of the myths about the industry as well as identify what some of the problems are. So if this process sorts out the wheat from the shaft in terms of focusing our critics which is what matters to us most, I believe we have a basis for an important step forward.
Joan Veon to Juan Somavia
Mr. Secretary-GeneralI have known of you from the various UN conferences around the world as ambassador and now as S-G of the ILO. When we start talking about globalization, everything is beintg shifted from the nation-state to the international level, looking at some of the action itmes in the Social Summit, what are you seeing from the global level as we look at labor?
Somavia: Well first of all, I think the summits were the first call to attention of where globalization was going. We said it was full of potential but it was also full of danger. We said that at the beginning of the 90's and formalized it in 1995. This is now common knowledge. The second thing is that we highlighted in the Summit 3 areas and if we enhance globalization and minimize it dangers which were: poverty, employment creation and social cohesion. The Fund and Bank have now decided that the policies have to be centered on the eradication of poverty, I am very happy for that having put together the Social Summit. The world is acknowledging is that the problems of globalization center around the world of work. I personally believe that if you ask people throughout the world, what is it that they need in order to reduce the anxieties of the malaise they have with globalization, they will tell you, "I want a decent work and if I can have the means and opportunities to have decent work, my insecurities are going to come down." When you ask people what is decent work, it is reasonably simple, it is work in which I can education my children, have a stable fmaily life in peace and security and health, to have a pension at the end of the time. I think this is a great challenge. In a meeting like Davos and other meetings of the international system, we should concentrate on how the global economy can deliver decent work to people. I think it is possible.
VEON: In the U.S., since I come from the north and you from the south. There are great differences. What kind of trends are you seeing at this point with an evening out of that process?
Somavia: What you have is in Latin American, unemployment grew in the last ten years. The Asian crisis had a big impact on it as things were going better before the Asian crisis but we wound up a decade with more unemployment at the end of the decade. Consequently these things are leading to how the global economy works. The president in Brazil said in Florence some months ago [JV: must have been the 3rd way meeting with Clinton], "In 1994 we hade to make an adjustment for internal reasons and we did it, then I had to make an adjustment because of the Asian Crisis, then an adjustment because of the Russian Crisis. There has to be a way in which the multilateral system works in which Brazil doesn't get hit because of things that are happening elsewhere." These are the issues which we have in front of us. But in the end the organizing factor Has to be deliver decent work to people which will bring tranquility and peace.
Veon: how are you doing that. For example in Europe the big discussion was "who was going to manufacture this and who was going to manufacture that?" What do you see from the top down as far as the dispensing of workers and manufacturing?
Somavia: I think if you take a look at globalization there are extraordinary advances which are here to stay. The whole information technology revolution, new forms of organization of work, what is happening in service industrieswhich are all here to say but the specific economic policies which have been p ut in place can change. Policies are not sacrosanct. What needs to be done is to recognize what globalization has
that is not going to be changed in the future because they are civilizational advances but on the other hand if you want decent work to be the product how do you put the policies together to put that together.
VEON: with regard to AFLCIO what are you seeing with regard to workers rights being globalized even those from the U.S.?
Somavia: There already has been a decision worldwide to recognize a set of core labor standards which was made in Copenhagen in 1995. The seven conventions of the ILO were sort of picked out and were declared to be a common objective of the international community. Those conventions are: the right to organize, the freedom of association, forced labor, child labor and non discrimination. That is already an international agreement so the world has already given itself a set of core standards.