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At UN, Kung's Ethics Cover Bayer and PetroChina, Some Say, Copenhagen Letdown

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 6 -- The UN Global Compact, which has already rebuffed activists' complaints about PetroChina and its dealings in Darfur and seems ready to reject complaints against Bayer and its pollution in West Virginia, on Tuesday embraced an ethics manifesto by theologian Hans Kung.

 In a heady and surreal session in a 4th floor dining room at the UN, Hans Kung spoke against casino capitalism, but said there was still no consensus against the charging of interest. Along with former IMF chief Michel Camdessus and four others, he has launched the six page "Global Economic Ethic" manifesto.

  Inner City Press asked Global Compact chief Georg Kell how this manifesto relates to the Global Compact, which rejected complaints against PetroChina's membership by saying that the wrong subsidiary was named. Might these principles require less legalism and more engagement on the substance, for example on the pending complaint with the Compact against Bayer?

  Kell's answer, to "our colleague from the UN press corp," was that "there are no silver bullets." He directed the Press to the Compact's web site's presentation of a project -- sponsored, he noted, by General Electric -- showing how complicated the world is, using sample "dilemmas" about doing business in emerging markets. To those who think this sounds like a defense of PetroChina, or even of employing child labor -- they need the money, don't they? -- we refer to this Compact press release.

Bayer, West Virginia pollution and Compact answer not shown

  The master of ceremonies of the event was Swiss Ambassador Peter Mauer, who called Kung "the best that Switzerland has to offer the world." Not raised was sponsor Norvartis' position against donating any of its research into H1N1 swine flu vaccine to even the poorest countries. Is that the best that Switzerland has to offer the world? Back to Camdessus, some say Switzerland is about to lose its IMF seat. But that's another story.

Footnote: also at the event, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's advisor Jeffrey Sachs spoke of climate change, and said that "we probably will not complete negotiations at Copenhagen." Inner City Press went down to the day's noon briefing and asked:

Inner City Press: Jeffrey Sachs, speaking at this event, the Global Compact event, said that probably negotiations will not be completed before or at Copenhagen. So I wanted to know is he, is this the Secretariat’s view? Is the seal the deal…?

Spokesperson Michele Montas: No, it’s Mr. Sachs’ view.

Inner City Press: It’s his own personal view?

Spokesperson Montas: Yes

  Back upstairs at the event, one of Inner City Press' table-mates said of Sachs, never forget the debilitating orders he gave to Russia. Another wag mused that since Ban's deputy envoy to Afghanistan got fired for disagreeing with his boss(es) about fraud in the Afghan election, why would another Ban advisor so casually disagree with Ban's "seal the deal" mantra? Watch this site.

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At UN, BASF Dodges W. Sahara Phosphorus Fall-Out, Global Compact's PetroChina Denial

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- When the UN Global Compact held a meeting on "current anti-corruption efforts by its corporate participants" last week, there were more than a few ironies. Chosen by the Compact as its corporate participant and thus poster-child was the chemical firm BASF. But when Inner City Press asked BASF's chief compliance officer Eckart Suenner about alleged irregularities in his firm's export of phosphate from the contested territory of Western Sahara, and the firm's refusal to make public an expert opinion it claims legitimates the transfer, Suenner dodged the question.

 Not only at the press conference on February 26, when he said while he hadn't heard about, BASF has policies on "dual use and stuff," but in the three days since Inner City Press sent him evidence of the refusal of Anne Forst of BASF's "Sustainability Center" to provide the expert opinion, no response from BASF has been received. Video here, from Minute 24:44. The inquiry focused on a shipment of 25,000 tons of phosphates from the Bu Craa mines in Western Sahara, carried by the ship Novigrad to the harbor of Ghent.

  While the Global Compact claims to be moving toward increased transparency and credibility, its board recently dismissed a detailed complaint against PetroChina and subsidiaries for their activities in Sudan. Faced with widespread protest of the dismissal, the Compact's Sir Mark Moody-Stuart has written that the issue will be re-visited at an upcoming meeting of the Compact's board.

  Inner City Press on February 26 asked when this will take place, and for the views on the matter of another participant, Jermyn Brooks, head of Global Private Sector Programs of Transparency International. Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell argued that PetroChina is not a member of the Compact, only its subsidiary CNPC is. Video here, from Minute 17:20.

UN's Ban and Global Compact, BASF's W. Sahara phosphates not shown

   In fact, the opposite appears to be true. In any event, should Compact participants be hiding behind a shell game of subsidiaries, in which all members of a conglomerate can cite an affiliate's membership in the UN Global Compact, but the most controversial parts of the company can say it was not them who joined?

   TI's Jermyn Brooks, who gave a detailed answer to Inner City Press' question about gray money being used to bolster the reeling banking sector, at least admitted he was "ducking" the PetroChina question, saying he doesn't have enough information. When he does, and when the Compact board revisits the question -- Kell would not give a date -- we will have more on these matters.

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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