Magazine article UN Chronicle

Building on the Leaders Summit

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Building on the Leaders Summit

Article excerpt

On 24 June 2004, Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened the first Global Compact Leaders Summit at UN Headquarters in New York. With approximately 480 representatives in attendance, the meeting was the largest-ever gathering of chief executive officers (CEOs), government officials and heads of labour and civil society on global corporate citizenship. Business leaders made headlines by vowing to combat corruption on a global scale, concluding that "businesses should work together against all forms of corruption, including extortion and bribery". The adoption of this anti-corruption code marks the tenth universal principle the Global Compact has approved in its effort to improve corporate responsibility.

The Global Compact dates back to January 1999, when it was first proposed by the Secretary-General at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This voluntary corporate initiative aims to remedy the challenges of globalization through a more sustainable and inclusive global economy. It is comprised of various companies, UN agencies--the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization--and labour and civil societies, all of which have adopted and supported the ten established universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption (see box).

Companies involved with the Compact hope to make these standards, along with the newly-adopted code on anti-corruption, part of their business strategies and operations. Likewise, they intend to use these principles to encourage cooperation with other key stakeholders and encourage partnerships. In this way, the Compact has been envisioned as a way to strengthen the global economy through economic and social conventions.

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In the four years since its establishment, the Global Compact has seen its lofty goals matched by growth in participation and membership. Since 1999, this initiative has branched out from a group of less than fifty firms to a network of over 1,500 from seventy countries. Additionally, it includes major international labour federations responsible for over 150 million workers worldwide.

In order to integrate business and politics, business leaders are encouraged to adhere to policies that ensure more responsible forms of globalization. They are also urged to increase transparency and demonstrate progress in integrating corporate responsibility into their business operations.

On 24 June, the CEOs took another progressive step in furthering these efforts by adopting the principle on anti-corruption. At the Global Compact Leaders Summit, they approved the UN Convention against Corruption, the first globally adopted measure to prevent graft. According to Peter Eigen, Chairman of Transparency International, corruption has always been seen as a "necessary evil" in business. Fortunately, "there [is] now a solid consensus behind the need to fight corruption", he said. Secretary-General Annan stated that business leaders must become stronger advocates for the poor and, alongside, President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil added that businesses, labour and civil societies should lobby against agricultural subsidies.

The Leaders Summit was also a success on an operational level, as ten stock exchanges announced they would take part in an awareness-raising campaign with their member companies. …

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