On Rights and Labor, Global Compact Is "Not a
Watchdog" of UN's Own Compliance
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, July
5 -- As Ban Ki-moon kicks off the UN Global Compact summit, on the sidelines a
debate has begun about the lack of enforcement or even evaluation of compliance
by the corporations which brag of their membership in the Compact and links with
so far from the debate, however, is the question of whether the UN system itself
complies with the principles it says it is promoting to corporations through the
area of human rights, the "Global Compact asks companies to.... make sure that
they are not complicit in human rights abuses." But in the past year and a half,
UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been accused of
torture, and the UN has continued to support the Ethiopia-based Transitional
Federal Government in Somalia, even as it routinely fired ordnance into civilian
neighborhoods in Mogadishu.
Development Program in 2006 supported violent disarmament by Ugandan soldiers in
the Karamoja region, in which villages were torched, and children held hostage
to be traded for weapons. UNDP in Zimbabwe has helped Robert Mugabe
set up a
"Human Rights Commission," while supporting Mugabe cronies in, for example,
human rights principles need enforcement on corporations, the UN itself shows a
lack of accountability. UNDP has attempted to
downplay or obscure its role in
Uganda and Zimbabwe; the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services' audits of DRC
peacekeeping, taking up to two years, are so slow as to be nearly meaningless.
By the time findings are announced, the peacekeepers have gone home, outside the
reach of any discipline by the UN. Most recently, UN peacekeepers in Kosovo who
killed two demonstrators by shooting them with 13-year old, hardened rubber
bullets left Pristina for Romania and have still not faced any
press briefing in New York to promote this week's summit, the Compact's
executive director Georg Kell was asked about the membership of
operation in Nigeria stands accused of
complicity in the murder of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Kell praised
Shell's recent actions and did not address its record in Nigeria.
the most recent of the Compact's principles, anti-corruption, Inner City Press
asked Kell, at what point in its disintegration might Enron have been thrown out
of the UN Global Compact? Kell's response was that companies too deserve due
process, and that punishments are left up to each country's national courts. So
Enron could join and remain a member, it seems clear.
Ban in Geneva, July 2007
not possible to either suspend or expel participating companies in cases of
substantive breach of the Global Compact's principles," Amnesty International's
head of economic relations, Audrey Gaughran, told the press in Geneva.
needed are legally binding regulations to control corporate activities with
respect to human rights," said Aftab Alam Khan of ActionAid, which has issued a
report about the performance in Ghana of AngloGold Ashanti, a subsidiary Anglo
American of chairman of Anglo American, the employer of Global Compact (and
former HSBC) leader, Mark Moody-Smith, available
These critiques have stopped short of assessing the UN's own compliance with the
Global Compact principles.
environmental field, UN Headquarters is notoriously full of asbestos, leaking heat
in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. In the field of labor, the UN
does not allow its employees to seek remedies in national courts, confining them
to an internal justice system that Ban Ki-moon himself has admitted is broken --
while still seeking to retain the power to appoint the judges in the proposed
system, alongside some workers with "permanent contracts," is full of insecure
workers who face unemployment every month or two. Recently at UN headquarters, a
whistleblower about UNDP's activities in North Korea sought the protection of
the UN Ethics Office -- and two weeks later was put on a watch list,
to be physically blocked from entering the UN buildings. His complaints about UNDP include corrupt payments to
the Kim Jong-il regime, contrary to the UN Global Compact's tenth principle
against extortion and bribery.
press briefings in New York in recent weeks, Inner City Press asked Georg Kell
and Melissa Powell of the Global Compact what steps, if any, have been taken to
ensure the UN's own compliance with the ten principles of the Compact. Ms.
Powell to her credit acknowledged that the principles had not been explicitly
addressed within the UN's Office of Human Resources Management, and that
following the Oil-for-Food scandal, implementation by the UN's procurement
department slowed. Georg Kell said, "We are not a watchdog of the UN."
Physician, heal thyself...
for earlier Inner City Press coverage of the UN Global Compact in the past
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