Sustainable Development: The Root of All Our Problems

Sustainable Development: The Root of All Our Problems

By Tom Deweese 

In his book, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore warned that a “wrenching transformation” must take place to lead America away from the “horrors of the Industrial Revolution.” The process to do that is called Sustainable Development and its’ roots can be traced back to a UN policy document called Agenda 21, adopted at the UN’s Earth Summit in 1992.
Sustainable Development calls for changing the very infrastructure of the nation, away from private ownership and control of property to nothing short of central planning of the entire economy – often referred to as top-down control. Truly, Sustainable Development is designed to change our way of life.

Many are now finding non-elected regional governments and governing councils enforcing policy and regulations. As these policies are implemented, locally-elected officials are actually losing power and decision-making ability in their own communities. Most decisions are now being made behind the scenes in non-elected “sustainability councils” armed with truckloads of federal regulations, guidelines, and grant money.

In fact, a recent study reported that elected city councils and commissioners have lost approximately 10% of their legislative power during the past 10 years, while, through the consensus process, the power of private groups called Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has increased by as much as 300%. It is a wrenching transformation, indeed.

The Three Es

According to its authors, the objective of sustainable development is to integrate economic, social, and environmental policies in order to achieve reduced consumption, social equity, and the preservation and restoration of biodiversity.

The Sustainablists insist that society be transformed into feudal-like governance by making Nature the central organizing principle for our economy and society. As such, every societal decision would first be questioned as to how it might effect the environment. To achieve this, Sustainablist policy focuses on three components; land use, education, and population control and reduction.

The Sustainable Development logo used in most literature on the subject contains three connecting circles labeled Social Equity; Economic Prosperity; and Ecological Integrity (known commonly as the 3 Es).

Social Equity

Sustainable Development’s Social Equity plank is based on a demand for something called “social justice.” It should be noted that the first person to coin the phrase “social justice” was Karl Marx. Today, the phrase is used throughout Sustainablist literature. The Sustainablist system is based on the principle that individuals must give up selfish wants for the needs of the common good, or the “community.” How does this differ from Communism?

This is the same policy behind the push to eliminate our nation’s borders to allow the “migration” of those from other nations into the United States to share our individually-created wealth and our taxpayers-paid government social programs. Say the Sustainablists, “Justice and efficiency go hand in hand.” “Borders,” they say, “are unjust.”

Under the Sustainablist system, private property is an evil that is used simply to create wealth for a few. So too, is business ownership. Instead, “every worker/person will be a direct capital owner.” Property and businesses are to be kept in the name of the owner, keeping them responsible for taxes and other expenses, however control is in the hands of the “community.”

Economic Prosperity

Sustainable Development’s economic policy is based on one overriding premise: that the wealth of the world was made at the expense of the poor. It dictates that, if the conditions of the poor are to be improved, wealth must first be taken from the rich. Consequently, Sustainable Development’s economic policy is based not on private enterprise but on public/private partnerships.

In order to give themselves an advantage over competition, some businesses – particularly large corporations – now find a great advantage in dealing directly with government, actively lobbying for legislation that will inundate smaller companies with regulations that they cannot possibly comply with or even keep up with. This government/big corporation back-scratching has always been a dangerous practice because economic power should be a positive check on government power, and vice versa. If the two should ever become combined, control of such massive power can lead only to tyranny. One of the best examples of this was the Italian model in the first half of the Twentieth Century under Mussolini’s Fascism.

Together, select business leaders who have agreed to help government impose Sustainablist green positions in their business policies, and officials at all levels of government are indeed merging the power of the economy with the force of government in Public/Private Partnerships on the local, state and federal levels.

As a result, Sustainable Development policy is redefining free trade to mean centralized global trade “freely” crossing (or eliminating) national borders. It definitely does not mean people and companies trading freely with each other. Its real effect is to redistribute American manufacturing, wealth, and jobs out of our borders and to lock away American natural resources. After the regulations have been put in place, literally destroying whole industries, new “green” industries created with federal grants bring newfound wealth to the “partners.” This is what Sustainablists refer to as economic prosperity.

Ecological Integrity

“Nature has an integral set of different values (cultural, spiritual and material) where humans are one strand in nature’s web and all living creatures are considered equal. Therefore the natural way is the right way and human activities should be molded along nature’s rhythms.”

from the UN’s Biodiversity Treaty presented at the 1992 UN Earth Summit.

This quote lays down the ground rules for the entire Sustainable Development agenda. It says humans are nothing special – just one strand in the nature of things or, put another way, humans are simply biological resources. Sustainablist policy is to oversee any issue in which man reacts with nature – which, of course, is literally everything. And because the environment always comes first, there must be great restrictions over private property ownership and control. This is necessary, Sustainablists say, because humans only defile nature. In fact, the report from the 1976 UN Habitat I conference said: “Land …cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, therefore, contributes to social injustice.”

Under Sustainable Development there can be no concern over individual rights – as we must all sacrifice for the sake of the environment. Individual human wants, needs, and desires are to be conformed to the views and dictates of social planners. The UN’s Commission on Global Governance said in its 1995 report: “Human activity…combined with unprecedented increases in human numbers…are impinging on the planet’s basic life support system. Action must be taken now to control the human activities that produce these risks.”

Under Sustainable Development there can be no limited government, as advocated by our Founding Fathers, because, we are told, the real or perceived environmental crisis is too great. Maurice Strong, Chairman of the 1992 UN Earth Summit said: “A shift is necessary toward lifestyles less geared to environmentally-damaging consumption patterns. The shift will require a vast strengthening of the multilateral system, including the United Nations.”

The politically based environmental movement provides Sustainablists camouflage as they work to transform the American systems of government, justice, and economics. It is a masterful mixture of socialism (with its top down control of the tools of the economy) and fascism (where property is owned in name only – with no control). Sustainable Development is the worst of both the left and the right. It is not liberal, nor is it conservative. It is a new kind of tyranny that, if not stopped, will surely lead us to a new Dark Ages of pain and misery yet unknown to mankind.

Source CFP 

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2 Responses to “Sustainable Development: The Root of All Our Problems”

  1. MATT Says:

    Since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment where
    nations pledged commitment to sustainability, where do we find ourselves 35
    years later?

    The Global Compact is the official association linking the UN and large transnational corporations. Secretary General Kofi Annan had appointed a John Ruggie as his special representative to study transnational corporations. Ruggie published a preliminary report in 2006 and then in February 2007 presented his second report to the new Human Rights Council.

    “Ruggie concludes his report by adopting the focus “suggested” by the very same transnational corporations, namely that they should not be placed under any obligations by international law. Instead the most appropriate course of action should be to reach agreements between corporations, the United Nations (through the Global Compact) and “civil society” to establish “declarations of good intent”, forms of soft law, codes of contact etc., whose implementation is to be controlled by the corporations themselves alongside representatives of “civil society”.

    As previously posted per World Wildlife Fund site lets public track polar bears along Hudson Bay

    the civil society is comprised of NGO “activist” affiliates chosen by the UN General Assembly. Any wonder that the NGOs are tripping over each other plugging for the UN while they ‘greenwash” the deeds of the very corporations that now dictate to the UN? The NGOs are advocating that we hand over $100s of billions per the UN’s Kyoto mechanisms to the same people who are responsible for the environmental degradation and social ills on the planet. Another inconvenient truth.

    United Nations and Transnational Corporations: a deadly association
    Alejandro Teitelbaum
    4 April 2007

    The United Nations is failing in its duty to control the abuses of transnational economic power, argues Alejandro Teitelbaum. The recent report by John Ruggie, special representative of the UN Secretary-General on business and human rights, represents a setback in attempts to establish international control over the activities of transnational corporations.

    I. The United Nations Organisation (UN) was created in order to keep the peace and defend human rights and dignity. Some important contributions towards these aims have been made, although the goal that it set itself has never been fully reached.

    Over the last decade or so however, with the disruption of the relative balance of international power, the UN has begun to drift in a direction diametrically opposed to its original aims.

    We do not wish to address at the moment the role which the Security Council plays in legitimating the imperialist and warmongering policies of the United States and its satellites, for example right now, as they prepare the ground for aggression against Iran.

    Instead we want to discuss the way in which various organs of the United Nations system act as instruments of the international economic power embodied in transnational corporations. By this we don’t mean the institutions that are specifically concerned with economic power, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, but rather other bodies whose responsibilities relate to human, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

    II. With the break-up of the bipolar power balance at the beginning of the 1990s, the United Nations began to disband or neutralise those organs which had been attempting to establish some control over the activities of transnational corporations. One such organ was the Commission on Transnational Corporations, created by the Economic and Social Council in 1974. In 1994 the same Economic and Social Council decided that it should be reconstituted as a Commission of the Trade and Development Council of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), taking into account, says the resolution, of the “change of orientation” of the commission. This change consisted of abandoning attempts to establish control over transnational corporations and instead concern itself with the “contribution of transnationals to growth and development”.

    But the ever-increasing abuses of transnational economic power, committed in the name of the expansion of the “market economy” at the global scale, provoked a reaction in public opinion which was also reflected within certain UN bodies.

    For example, in 2004, after several years of work, a Working Group of the Sub-Commission for Human Rights finished a project establishing international standards with a view to preventing and eventually penalising activities of transnational corporations that contravene human rights. The project, despite being fairly tame, was vigorously rejected by international organisations representing big business, which demanded its withdrawal.

    The overseeing body of the Sub-Commission, the now-defunct Commission on Human Rights, yielded unanimously to the demands of transnational corporations to bury the Sub-Commission’s Project. By a vast majority (49 votes out of 53) they also asked the Secretary General of the UN to appoint a special rapporteur to continue addressing the issue of transnational corporations. The United States and Australia voted against, maintaining that in no way should the commission continue dealing with transnational corporations, not even by means of a special rapporteur designated by the Secretary General. South Africa also voted against, and Burkina Faso abstained.

    The then Secretary General Kofi Annan nominated his principal advisor in the Global Compact, John Ruggie, as his special representative to study transnational corporations. The Global Compact is the official association linking the UN and large transnational corporations. Ruggie published a preliminary report in 2006 and then in February 2007 presented his second report to the new Human Rights Council.

    The Commission’s decision and the choice of Ruggie represented one more setback to attempts to establish international control over the activities of transnational corporations.

    The close collaboration with transnational corporations is institutionalised within the United Nations via the Global Compact, an alliance between the Secretariat of the UN and large transnational corporations, many of which have long histories of human rights violations and corruption. The ideology which inspired the Global Compact was clearly expressed by the UN Secretary-General in a 1998 report to the General Assembly, entitled “Entrepreneurship and Privatisation for Economic Growth and Sustainable Development”. The Secretary-General said in this report that “deregulation… has become the watchword for government reforms in all countries, both developed and developing”, and advocated the sale of public corporations entrusting “the ownership and management to investors who have the necessary experience and capacity to improve productivity, even though this would sometimes mean selling assets to foreign buyers”.

    III. The report that Ruggie recently presented to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations was faithful to the ideology of the Global Compact, with its first paragraph being a profession of faith in the virtues of the market. According to the author, the prerequisites for this are: the right to property (without adding any commentary about the social function of this), the fulfilment of contracts, competition (the rapporteur judiciously abstained from adding the adjective “free” because it is too widely accepted that free competition does not exist in a world dominated by monopolies and oligopolies) and the unhindered circulation of information (also nonexistent as all forms of information are monopolised and controlled by large multinational corporations).

    In paragraph 2, Ruggie states that global markets have expanded significantly in recent decades as a result of commercial agreements, bilateral investment treaties and, at a national level, privatisations and “liberalisation”. He continues by saying that the rights of transnational corporations have increasingly become enshrined in national legislation and are better defended in obligatory arbitrations before international tribunals, which is undoubtedly true.

    The report makes no mention of the disastrous consequences for the world’s peoples that accompany such commercial agreements, bilateral treaties, privatisation and liberalisation policies and obligatory international arbitrations, especially for the most economically vulnerable sectors in peripheral countries.

    Ruggie continues by stating that “globalisation” has contributed to an impressive reduction in poverty levels in key countries that are emerging into the market economy, and a generally higher standard of living in the industrialised world.

    This assessment of the report’s author totally contradicts not only the facts and statistics, but also the near unanimous opinion of specialists, who maintain that alongside economic growth social inequality has vastly increased. A tiny minority hoard a great and growing proportion of the fruits of human labour, whilst a good part of the population is not able to meet even its basic needs. This is true not only in peripheral countries, but also in the industrialised world. Even the World Bank, tireless advocate of the disastrous economic polices which dominate the global stage, has recognised that its policies have not managed to reduce the levels of poverty in countries which receive its credits.

    Ruggie also forgets that international economic power, as embodied by large multinational corporations, is not content with merely accentuating social inequality and condemning large sectors of the world’s population to a life of poverty. The most powerful, in addition to backing coups d’etat, aiding dictators and financing paramilitaries and anti-union death squads, play a determining role in political decisions of ruling elites which go contrary to human rights, both at the nation state level and in regional and international organisations.

    A serious evaluation of the role of transnational corporations, unlike that undertaken by Ruggie, should take all these aspects of their behaviour into account. It also should not ignore the close relationship that exists between the warmongering, anti-ecological and anti-human policies of the United States (the country where a large part of the biggest transnational corporations are based), and the omnipresence of representatives of the petroleum-military-industrial complex at the highest levels of its government.

    It is worth noting that Ruggie’s report does not make reference to the heavy influence which transnational corporations have on the United Nations system. Institutionalised via the Global Compact, this is also exerted through private funding of UN programmes, projects, organs and organisations including the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, which receives two-thirds of its funding from the voluntary donations of nation states and private institutions.

    Also absent from Ruggie’s report is any mention of the influence that transnational corporations have over some aspects of so-called “civil society”, for example over some important non-governmental organisations.

    It is therefore hardly surprising that Ruggie concludes his report by adopting the focus “suggested” by the very same transnational corporations, namely that they should not be placed under any obligations by international law. Instead the most appropriate course of action should be to reach agreements between corporations, the United Nations (through the Global Compact) and “civil society” to establish “declarations of good intent”, forms of soft law, codes of contact etc., whose implementation is to be controlled by the corporations themselves alongside representatives of “civil society”.

    Ruggie’s report is consistent not only with the now defunct Human Rights Commission, which shelved the Sub-Commission’s project to create international standards, but also with the more general orientation of the United Nations towards the serious economic, political and social problems represented by the disproportionate power of large transnational corporations.

    The deadly association between the United Nations and transnational corporations is clearly shown in the attitude displayed by the UN to the tragedy which has been ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    IV. The January 2006 edition of the prestigious British medical Journal The Lancet points out that the ten years of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has cost between 3.5 and 4.5 million lives. That makes it the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War.

    It is universally recognised that the backdrop to this tragedy is the appropriation of strategic minerals which abound in the Congo: diamonds, gold, columbite-tantalite (coltan), cobalt, etc. It is estimated that the DRC has about 80 per cent of the world’s coltan reserves. The special properties of coltan account for its widespread use in the electronics industry, especially in the making of mobile telephones (one billion of which were sold globally in 2006).

    Even the Security Council, in its resolution 1493 dated 28 July 2003, declared that it “Condemns categorically the illegal exploitation of the natural resources and other sources of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and expresses its intention to consider means that could be used to end it.”

    A report of the Group of Experts to the Security Council Committee for the Democratic Republic of Congo, dated November 2006, analyses in detail the connection between armed groups and the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and refers to a previous report which spoke of “viable and effective measures which the Security Council could impose in order to impede the illegal exploitation of natural resources in order to finance armed groups and militias in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

    In its Recommendations Chapter the report states: “No counterpart whose views were solicited by the Group of Experts thought it advisable to sanction the importation of specific commodities originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Objections were raised concerning:
    (a) The inability to enforce such sanctions; (b) The risk of increasing the price of the sanctioned commodity and thus rewarding the embargo buster; (c) Probable economic effects, variously described as “serious” or “probably leading to a new civil war”; and (d) The negative repercussion on the nascent investment climate in the country.”

    UN bodies that deal with the DRC, such as the Group of Experts created by a decision of the Security Council, are completely partial in their approach to the problem. They refer only to the illegal exploitation of natural resources in order to finance armed groups and mention only certain local companies that are involved in this.

    No mention whatsoever is made, however, of large transnational mining companies or the transnational electronics industry that directly or indirectly promote of the current situation, and end users and principal beneficiaries of the minerals that have been extracted from the DRC at the cost of an overwhelming massacre that has already lasted for ten years.

    A document produced by the NGO Human Rights Watch points out the involvement of AngloGold Ashanti, a corporation headquartered in South Africa and Metalor, a Swedish firm. It fails to note, however, that AngloGold Ashanti is linked to Anglo-American, with head offices in Johannesburg and London, and to Barrick Gold Corporation, whose head office is in Canada. Anglo-American control around 45 per cent of the shares of DeBeers, the company which has a near monopoly over the global diamond industry. Amongst the mining companies associated with Barrick Gold is Adastra Mining, which has bought a diamond concession along the Congo-Angola border from Belgian mercenary firm International Defense and Security (1998). They are also currently developing cobalt and copper concessions in the Congolese province of Katanga (Shaba). Adastra is a member of the Corporate Council on Africa (a body made up of large companies operating in Africa) together with Goodworks, Halliburton, Chevron-Texaco, Northrop, Grumman, GE, Boeing, Raytheon and Bechtel, etc.

    Major consumers of the coltan mined in the DRC are, amongst others: Sony, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Nokia, Intel Lucent, Motorola, Ericsson, Siemens, Hitachi, IBM, etc.

    One of the leaders of Anglo-American, the mining transnational involved in the Congolese drama, is Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. He is at the same time a notable member of the Global Compact.

    It is therefore hardly surprising that in the Recommendations of the Group of Experts, the opinion of these “counterparts” is reflected, who consider it inadvisable to impose sanctions on the importation of these minerals because it could cause a price increase that could have negative repercussions for the “emergent investment environment of the country”.

    The group also says: “The Group’s consultations with a broad range of stakeholders suggest that these problems are best addressed by promoting law-abiding industries and responsible Government oversight.”

    The United Nations and large transnational corporations have the same priorities in the DRC: continuing exports of strategic minerals at low prices, to not discourage potential investors, and to attempt to create a legal framework for the plunder of the natural resources of the DRC by transnational corporations in the name of promoting law-abiding industries and responsible Government oversight. Meanwhile the human rights of the Congolese people, including the basic right to life, will have to wait until brighter times.

    Translation by Kate Wilson

  2. MATT Says:

    I also remember collecting pennies for children when I was 9 growing up in the housing project in Ville LaSalle. And …today 1000 kids die each hour from lack of food and clean water. Meanwhile the UN stole food from starving Iraqi children. 200,000 children died. UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette rejected any investigation, claiming that it would be too expensive to be worthwhile. Years’ worth of documents concerning the program were shred.

    Is there something wrong with this picture?

    Corporations polish up their humanitarian image [at the United Nations]

    As a child growing up in New York City, on Halloween I used to go around with a little orange box to collect pennies for UNICEF. I have no idea how much those pennies helped children around the world but, if nothing else, it was a brilliant branding scheme. The sing-song ‘trick or treat for UNICEF’ still rings in my ears every Halloween. At an impressionable age, my mother told me I was a ‘partner’ with the United Nations.
    Partnership is still in vogue at the UN, but it has a different connotation. The preferred partner today is an oil giant like Shell, a mining conglomerate like Rio Tinto or a global food merchant like Nestlé. The idea is that the UN, starved of funding by its Member States, cannot solve problems on its own. Therefore it must turn to those with the power to do so. And where does one find the largest concentration of power, capital and technology? Transnational corporations (TNCs), of course.
    The flaw in this logic is that in confronting myriad crises the UN seeks to enlist the very entities that are at the root of creating many of them. The experts in the technologies and systems that have caused the problems are assumed to be the experts at finding solutions.
    The Granddaddy of the corporate partnership programmes is the Global Compact It was first proposed by Kofi Annan to the elite World Economic Forum in Davos almost a year before the global justice movement burst on the scene in Seattle. The first taker from the business world was the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – the world’s largest corporate lobby group. Its embrace should have raised deep suspicion.
    Even before the 1992 Rio Earth Summit the ICC was an effective voice in derailing international regulations and promoting false, superficial solutions. In 1991, in the lead-up to the Rio Summit, it published a book called From Ideas to Action in which it expressed delight that many corporations had agreed to sign up to the Rotterdam Charter for Sustainable Development, a series of voluntary principles developed by the ICC. Most of the book was devoted to ‘case studies’, which were in fact carefully selected anecdotes about -purportedly sustainable projects. Fast forward to 1999.
    The Global Compact asks companies to sign up to nine principles and submit case studies.
    Stripped of its bells and whistles, it has the same foundation as the ICC developed for its own members. The principles sound good, but adherence to them is neither monitored nor enforced. The case studies do not represent the overall record of the company, and allow only good news.
    More fundamentally, the philosophy of the ICC – that open markets are the key to sustainable development – was not to be challenged, and became the philosophy of the UN.
    The qualified support shown initially by some groups, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, has frayed badly and they have begun to distance themselves from the Compact. Groups that openly criticize the Compact have often been dismissed by UN staff as negative, confrontational and unproductive.
    Tight embrace
    Ironically, these ‘negative’ groups are among the staunchest supporters of the UN. But by 2002 the UN’s policies toward business were so supine that a major protest targeted the corporate influence over the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
    What caused it to embrace the corporate world so tightly? In the late 1980s, at the height of a wave of environmental awareness, some companies began to present themselves as lovers of the environment. DuPont – which was responsible for a large part of the ozone hole – featured breaching whales in its ads. Chevron, one of the largest oil companies, touted its support for wildlife reserves. Magazines were filled with expensively photographed migrating birds, pristine rivers and adorable marine mammals, accompanied by words communicating pious concern for the environment – all brought to you by the biggest polluters on the planet.
    Greenwash’ reached a kind of global apotheosis at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The world’s most damaging companies signed up to the cause of sustainable development as long as it didn’t actually force any serious changes to their behaviour. Since then their consistent message has been that they understand the issues and will provide solutions – as long as they are left alone to do so.
    The world’s governments endorsed the voluntary approach. When the US insisted on UN reform in the 1990s, one of the casualties was the UN Centre on Transnational Corporations, which provided information and technical assistance to developing countries in their dealings with corporations. Over the next few years the specialized agencies working on issues closely related to corporate impacts were given insufficient funds. By the late 1990s an impoverished UN Development Programme began to see itself as a ‘broker’ between countries and private sector partners. The Commission on Sustainable Development became a talk-shop.
    For Kofi Annan and the heads of UN agencies the hope was that by bringing in big business the UN would become better funded and more effective. Yet, in choosing to enter a partnership at a time when corporate power was at a zenith and its own leverage light, the UN allowed the most powerful corporations to ‘bluewash’ themselves – to spiff up their public image – without getting much in return. Ten years after Rio, at the Johannesburg Summit, a few haphazard, small-scale partnerships were touted as the main accomplishment.
    Meanwhile, in the realm of trade and investment, business was on a major campaign for extreme liberalization via the WTO and free trade agreements. Where corporate rights were concerned, voluntary measures were not enough. Corporations want the right to sue governments – but resist people’s right to sue them. The UN saw its role as a potential regulator demolished.
    There was, however, the nasty problem of a public backlash against corporate malfeasance. Here, business saw the UN’s potential as a foil. One of the earliest partnership programmes, the UNDP’s Global Sustainable Development Facility (which never got off the ground), specifically recognized the likelihood of ‘image transfer’ to its private sector partners. When Kofi Annan launched the Global Compact in July 2000, corporate leaders such as
    Phil Knight of Nike made sure they were photographed shaking the Secretary-General’s hand in front of the UN flag.
    With strong personal support from Kofi Annan, the Compact may or may not survive under the next Secretary-General. But there is no doubt that the corporate partnership trend is still in full swing. It influences every UN agency and conference. On 13 October 2004 Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette told business leaders, ‘please rest assured that, when business looks to play its part in making this world a better place, the United Nations is open for business, and open to business’.
    For those of us who collected pennies for UNICEF, the UN still represents something more than the sum of its parts. Alone among the global institutions it stands for peace, human rights and sustainability above corporate rights. The struggle continues. For example, the UN Sub-Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights has negotiated a text on Human Rights Norms for business. Most of the human rights world supports the Norms. But the business world has lobbied against them. Moreover, it has used the Global Compact as a rhetorical weapon in its campaign, saying that the Norms would interfere with voluntary cooperation. The Compact has thus become a pretext for opposition to a potentially major advance in human rights.
    UN officials say that avoiding a relationship with big business is impossible. That is true. What is not clear is why partnership should be the goal. Corporations sometimes play a positive role in people’s lives, at other times a negative one. What is undeniable to most peoples’ movements is that, at present, corporations – and especially the giant TNCs – have too much power. These movements long for a body that can monitor corporations and hold them accountable. The UN is the only institution that might, some day, play that role. To do so, it will have to break the partnership..

    Kenny Bruno is co-author with Jed Greer of Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism and with Josh Karliner of The Corporate Takeover of Sustainable Development. He is currently Campaigns Co-ordinator at EarthRights international, which serves as Secretariat for the Alliance for a Corporate-Free UN.

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