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UN Global Compact Chief Says Corporations Are Victims Too, Lashes Out at Critic

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 19 -- While global publics question the ethics of business executives who ran their companies into the ground, sought taxpayer bailouts and then still seek year-end bonuses, the UN's corporate social responsibility unit, the Global Compact, has little to nothing to say on the topic. In the past week, Inner City Press has asked both the director and honorary chairman of the Compact to speak to this question.

  Mark Moody Stuart, during a break of the Compact board's meeting ostensibly to improve the reports on progress that member companies file, told Inner City Press that the bailouts are purely a national matter, and emphasized that ethics controversies exist only with respect to the financial services industry. He works in mining, and has previously debated Inner City Press about his company's investment in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Ethics, anyone?

  Georg Kell, the director of the Compact, was even more combative.  On bailouts, he answered in part that "corporations are as much victims as taxpayers." Video here, from Minute 10:53. Inner City Press asked him about a critique offered, from the same rostrum at which he sat, by the President of the UN General Assembly's expert on water, Maude Barlow.  Kell's response was surprisingly, or telling:

"Frankly, we have never met. She has never engaged in our work. I don’t think she knows what we are doing, because many NGOs are involved in our water work. As a matter of fact, many of the heavy lifting on water analysis is done by some non-corporate actors, which are highly respected in that field. […] As I said, she has never looked into our work. She has never attended any of our meetings. I don’t think she is aware of what our communication on progress policy is about. I don’t think she has really looked into what we are." Video here, from Minute 13:31.

  But there are people who have looked into the Compact, and are nevertheless skeptical about its seriousness in holding corporations to account. How are people supposed to know more about the Compact's work, when for example its proposal on Communications on Progress, which Inner City Press asked for while outside the closed-door meeting, still has not been provided, nor the outcome of the Compact's meeting on labor standards?

UN's Ban, Kell at right, with Coca-Cola executive, Maude Barlow not shown

    On December 18, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly about Kell's comments, and what jurisdiction the General Assembly has over the Global Compact. Video here, from Minute 18:52. He replied that "the Global Compact is part of the Secretariat... and the whole Organization."

   But to whom or what is the Global Compact accountable?  While this reporting may seen harsh, even with the well-intentioned there is a problem when there is no accountability, and little oversight.

  Even administratively, the Compact has been shifted from the Executive Office of the Secretary-General over to the UN Department of Management, the head of which Angela Kane has only briefed the press one time since assuming the post, and who is also in charge of such things as the repair of the building and the so-called Capital Master Plan. Who knows more about the Global Compact, Angela Kane or Maude Barlow, who is now, with some friction with the Compact, in the UN orbit? To be continued.

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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