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Ban Ki-moon, With Coke Chair, Says Global Compact Will Be Transparent, But How?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- Flanked by the CEO of Coca-Cola, Ban Ki-moon in Geneva on Thursday told the press that the UN is going to " strengthen this accountability and transparency" of the Global Compact.

            In New York, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's deputy spokesperson to explain this claim:

Inner City Press: He was asked how can it be more credible, how can it actually enforce things on corporations.  And he said somehow that it was going to become stronger, and I quote, 'We are going to strengthen its accountability and transparency.'  But it seems that all he says is that companies would be de-listed if they don't file reports in two years, which is already the case.  So I am wondering, is he referring... is there anything new that he is saying?  There have been headlines, saying like Ban Ki-moon calls for stronger... is there something new?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the fact that he has chosen to attend the Global Compact Summit in Geneva, in and of itself, shows his support for this initiative.  As you said, in his remarks and in his transcript, he is calling on the cooperation of these companies in many ways, including in one of his top priorities: combating global warming. As for the issue of accountability, I just wanted to mention to you that the Global Compact does request participants to disclose actions undertaken in support of their commitment. Should companies fail to produce a communication on their progress after two years, as you mentioned, they are publicly de-listed.  So far, approximately 600 companies have been publicly de-listed.  Obviously, this is a step towards trying to enforce that.

Inner City Press: Currently, as long as a corporation puts out something it calls a report, there is no substantive review if there is anything in the report.  If there is actually any compliance or performance or anything.  So I was wondering, what is his view on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the Global Compact Office is doing the best that it can, and I am sure, as Georg [Kell] has mentioned to you in his press conference, that his office is undertaking a number of measures to try to reinforce those measures.

(Video here, from Minute 13:49 to 16:14.)

            But it's not (only) about the effort expended by the Global Compact Office -- for now, they have no mandate to perform any substantive review of the reports filed by companies which have joined the Global Compact.

Ban Ki-moon and Coke, July 5, 2007: who's using who? New standards not shown

            It should be noted, however, that Global Compact staff chose recently to appear at a luncheon in the UN headquarters on May 31 also flogging Coca-Cola. As noted even at Mr. Ban's press conference in Geneva, Coke is under fire regarding its water use in India, and its labor practices in Colombia. Amazing, even while at the Global Compact summit, Coke's E. Neville Isdell was talking up his company's possible takeover of Snapple.

            Elsewhere in the UN system, the UN Development Program has praised both Coca-Cola and Shell, click here for that. 

    So where are the standards? We'll see.

Click here, here and here for earlier Inner City Press coverage of the UN Global Compact in the past month, here for more

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540