cj#703> Globalism and the U.N.


Richard Moore

Dear cj,

Good article below by David Korten - author of _When Corporations Rule the
World_ (Kumarian).  Report on U.N. is useful, as well as are the background
comments made about development, WTO, etc.

I'd like to hear from some of you lurkers, especially from new subscribers,
about your responses to cyberjournal, whether it provides useful
information and perspectives, etc.  You can send a note either privately
(•••@••.•••) or for-publication (•••@••.•••).


Date: Fri, 25 Jul 1997
From: "Anderson, Robert" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: U.N. part of corporate team? (fwd)

        You will like this one....Bob

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997
From: Ted Cloak <•••@••.•••>
To: Green List <•••@••.•••>,
    Laura Ann White <•••@••.•••>, Dan Cloak <•••@••.•••>
Subject: ALL: U.N. part of corporate team? (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 12:40:43 -0700 (PDT)
From: Tony Switzer <•••@••.•••>
Reply-To: •••@••.•••
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: ALL: U.N. part of corporate team?

The title on my subject line may sound like conspiracy theory, but read
this forwarded piece written by David Korten.  I am posting it for Margaret
Weston of the Austin AFD.


On June 24, 1997 the CEOs of 10 TNCs met over lunch at the United Nations with
the UN leadership and a number of senior government officials to chart a
formalization of corporate involvement in the affairs of the United Nations. I
attended the lunch. It is rare that any of us from the NGO community has such
an opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the powerholders in the private
chambers. I found it a shattering experience for it revealed a seamless
alliance between the public and private sectors aligned behind the
consolidation of corporate rule over the global economy. It raised serious
questions in my mind as to whether progressive civil society organizations
should in fact be aligned behind the United Nations and its funding.
The following is a personal report. I'm sending as an attachment a memo I
subsequently wrote to Ambassador Razali Ismail, President of the UN General
Assembly who chaired the meeting.

An insightful cartoon foreseeing a UN in which the global corporations sit as
equals with nations in the UN chambers and a list of luncheon participants
will be posted to the PCDForum web site in the next day or two. (They are
there now-MW, 7/21/97)
See:  http://iisd1.iisd.ca/pcdf
David C. Korten
by David C. Korten

It was a true power lunch of lobster and an exotic mushroom salad held in a
private dining room at the United Nations on June 24, 1997. Thirty-seven
invited participants were co-hosted by Ambassador Razali Ismail, president of
the UN General Assembly, and Mr. Bjorn Stigson, executive director of the
World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to examine steps
toward establishing terms of reference for business sector participation in
the policy-setting process of the UN and partnering in the uses of UN
development assistance funds. The players in the meeting were 15 high level
representatives of government, including three heads of state, the Secretary
General of the UN, the Administrator of UNDP, and the UN Under Secretary
General responsible for presiding over the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce,
10 CEOs of transnational corporations. The CEOs were mostly members of the
WBCSD, a council of transnational corporations (TNCs) originally organized by
Stephan Schmidheiny and Maurice Strong to represent the interests of global
corporations at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
in Rio in 1992.

In a limited gesture toward transparency and multi-stakeholder participation,
two "academics" and two NGOs were invited to observe. The academics were
Jonathan Lash of World Resources Institute and myself. Chee Yoke Ling of the
Third World Network and Victoria "Vicki" Tauli-Corpuz of the Indigenous
Peoples' Network, Philippines were the NGO participants.

The meeting's outcome was preordained. It closed with Ambassador Razali,
President of the General Assembly, announcing that a framework for the
involvement of the corporate sector in UN decision-making would be worked out
under the auspices of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Listening to the presentations by the governmental and corporate
representatives left me rather deeply shaken, as it revealed the extent to
which most of the messages the world's NGOs have been attempting to
communicate to the UN and its governmental members at UNCED and the other UN
conferences have fallen on deaf ears. On the positive side, Mr. Thorbejoern
Jagland, the Prime Minister of Norway, called for a tax shift to place the
burden of taxation on environmentally damaging consumption. Both Ms. Clare
Short, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom
and Mrs. Margaret De Boer, Minister of Environment for the Netherlands, called
for giving high priority to ending poverty.

Ms. Chee Yoke Ling of the Third World Network, the only non-corporate
stakeholder voice given the floor, spoke eloquently of the growing
concentration of wealth being created by the corporate sector and of the
corporate commitment to the unattainable agenda of creating a universal
consumer society. She observed that there are not enough resources in the
world for everyone to live even at the current level of consumption of the
average Malaysian, let alone the level of the United States or Europe. She
further noted that people are becoming increasingly cynical about the
professed corporate commitment to sustainability given that in corporate
dominated forums such as World Trade Organization (WTO) they talk only of the
rights of corporations and nothing of their obligations.

Such moments of enlightenment were the exception. On the less enlightened
side, we were treated to the views of Mr. Samuel Hinds, the President of
Guyana. He was the only speaker to take any note of Chee Yoke Ling's comments
and he dismissed them out of hand. Indeed, he accused NGOs of causing popular
unrest by trying to postpone in the name of environmental protection the
development that people so desperately want. Besides, he pointed out, if he
does not cut down his country's forests someone might grow marijuana in them.

The United States sent Larry Summers, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury as its
representative to the luncheon. The Clinton administration could hardly have
sent a clearer message as to how it views the trade-off between its commitment
to sustainability and its commitment to its corporate clients. Summers is the
former Chief Economist of the World Bank who gained public fame for advocating
the shipping of more toxic wastes to low income countries because people there
die early anyway and they have less income earning potential so their lives
are less valuable. Summers treated the luncheon guests to a litany of
neoliberal platitudes. He praised privatization, noting that people take
better care of their homes when they own them, implying that environmental
resources will be better cared for when they are all privately-owned by the
corporate sector. He assured us that economic growth leads the way to creating
both the will and the means to deal with the environment. In other words, he
believes that the more a person consumes the more careful that person will be
of the environment. And he noted that by attracting private foreign capital to
build bridges and roads on a fee for use basis, the receiving countries will
eliminate their need to use scarce public funds for physical infrastructure.
He might well have noted as a further advantage that the private toll roads
and bridges will be less congested than open public facilities as fees will
exclude their use by the poor.

Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, gave the corporate CEOs a warm
welcome with his message that he sees opportunities for the private sector and
the UN cooperating at many levels. He referred to the Rio meeting as an
example of where the private sector participated in setting the standards
rather than the UN or government imposing them. He of course made no mention
that corporate participation in Rio helped assure that few standards were
actually set and that even fewer have been met. He called on the private
sector to come up with alternative energy sources for the poor so they "don't
have to cut down every tree in sight," while making no mention of the
corporations that are strip mining the world's forests. He praised UNDP for
its role in preparing the way for private investment to come into Third World
countries and called on governments to provide incentives to move business in
this direction; in short he is firmly committed to using UN and other public
funds to subsidize the corporate buy-out of Third World economies.

Gus Speth, the Administration of UNDP, said that the best hope for the 3
billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day is to bring them
into the market by redirecting more private investment flows to low income
countries. UNDP is apparently facilitating this process by giving priority to
using its limited funds to "leverage" (read "subsidize") private foreign
investment. He mentioned that peace and justice will require a particular kind
of development, but did not elaborate as to what kind that might be.

Underlying the words of everyone who was allowed to speak, with the sole
exception of NGO spokesperson Chee Yoke Ling, was an embrace of the neoliberal
logic of market deregulation and economic globalization. According to the
prevailing official wisdom, economic globalization and the economic dominance
of corporations are irreversible realities to which we must simply adapt.
Since global corporations have the money and the power, any viable approach to
dealing with poverty and the environment must center on providing market
incentives (read "public subsidies") that will make it profitable for them to
invest in job creation and environmentally friendly technologies. Thus it
follows, by the twisted official logic, that corporations need to be brought
in as partners in public decision process to assure that the resulting
policies will be responsive to their needs. If any speaker other than Chee
Yoke Ling saw any problem in giving over ever more power to global
corporations, they revealed no hint of it at this power luncheon.

The underlying commitment to the use of public resources to advance
unrestrained global corporate expansion brought to mind the central message of
a book that first appeared in 1980 written by Bertram Gross titled FRIENDLY
FASCISM: THE NEW FACE OF POWER IN AMERICA. Gross looked beyond the familiar
racism, hatred, and brutal authoritarian rule associated with the practice of
fascism to describe the institutional structure of fascist regimes. Herein he
revealed a nasty little secret: The defining structure of fascist regimes is a
corporate dominated alliance between big business and big government to
support the expansion of corporate empires.

Those of us who have been studying these issues have long known of the strong
alignment of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, and the IMF
to the corporate agenda. By contrast the United Nations has seemed a more
open, democratic and people-friendly institution. What I found so shattering
was the strong evidence that the differences I have been attributing to the
United Nations are largely cosmetic.

It seems that all our official forums function within the culture of
ideological dogmatism that international financier George Soros denounced in
his Atlantic Monthly article, "The Capitalist Threat." With dissenting voices
quickly silenced, there is no challenge within the halls of power to flawed
logic and assumptions.

So long as official forums remain captive to this closed and deeply flawed
ideological culture, our governmental and corporate institutions will almost
surely lead our world ever deeper into crisis. The burden of providing
alternative leadership that falls on those elements of civil society that are
not captive to the official culture is thus enormous. We must speak fearlessly
with force and clarity in an effort to penetrate the veil of silence that
shields our official and corporate institutions from confronting the
devastating consequences of their ideologically driven leadership.

David C. Korten  -  PCDForum
Fax (1-212) 242-1901
Globalize Consciousness  -  Localize Economies
Visit our web site: http://iisd1.iisd.ca/pcdf


Date: Tue, 22 Jul 97 22:22:16 -0600
From: •••@••.••• (Margaret Weston)
Organization: Capitol Macintosh
Subject: UN & Transnationals/2
To: •••@••.•••
Priority: normal
MIME-Version: 1.0

Here is a copy of David Korten's return comments following the luncheon he
attended at the U.N.

( from http://iisd1.iisd.ca/pcdf/1997/UNfacs.htm )

 DATE: July 4, 1997
 TO: H.E. Mr. Razali Ismail, President of the UN General Assembly
 FAX: 963-3301
 SUBJECT: Subsidizing corporate takeover
 PAGES: 3 pages (including cover page)
 FROM:David C. Korten
 FAX NO: (1-212) 242-1901
 INTERNET: •••@••.•••
 ADDRESS: 14 E 17th Street, Suite 5, New York, New York 10003, U.S.A.

 Thanks for including me in the Corporate Roundtable luncheon last
 Tuesday. The food was great and witnessing the proceedings was an
 instructive experience.

 I send this fax in follow-up to that lunch and the discussions we had
 prior to it. Specifically I offer comments on two arguments I heard
 presented favoring a formalization of UN relationships with TNCs.

   1. TNC funds are needed to help finance UN projects. I didn't really
      grasp the implications of what the proponents had in mind until I
      heard that UNDP is now using its funds "to leverage private
      investment funds" on a ratio of 6 to 1. That sounds pretty good,
      until you realize this means UN development assistance money is
      being used to subsidize the buyout of Third World economies by
      global corporations. The most extraordinary part of it is that the
      TNCs seem to have convinced Third World leaders that the greater the
      foreign ownership of their economies the better off their people
      will be. No mention is made of the reality that foreign investors
      expect to extract profits in foreign exchange at rates upwards of 30
      percent while at the same time extracting the country's natural
      wealth and the product of its workers to service wasteful
      consumption by the world's elites.

      The credibility of the UN is seriously at stake here. Consider the
      implications for the UN's public image as people wake up to the
      reality that the scarce UN development funds intended to benefit the
      poor of the world are in fact being dispensed as corporate welfare
      to help finance the global corporate take over of the world economy.
      It should not be surprising if this eventually pushes the
      progressive citizen organizations that have heretofore supported the
      United Nations into a position of organizing against UN funding, as
      many of them have organized against World Bank and IMF funding.

   2. TNCs have a contribution to make in the policy process to assure the
      rules are workable. You probably missed the briefing the WBCSD held
      for NGOs immediately following the Tuesday luncheon. During that
      briefing an NGO participant asked whether the WBCSD supports the
      proposal to create a CSD sub-committee on corporate accountability.
      Mr. Stigson gave a very clear answer that they oppose it because in
      their view global corporations are already accountable to far too
      many bodies.

 The one thing I can say in Mr. Stigson's favor here is that he gave an
 honest answer. None of us should be surprised when the WBCSD uses its
 place at the UN table to scuttle efforts to establish a framework of
 rules holding corporations accountable to the public interest-exactly as
 the critics who wrote the articles I gave you on Monday night point out
 it has been doing all along. The fox is now in the UN chicken coop
 participating in writing the security protocols intended to protect the
 chickens from the fox-yet another serious blow to the UN's credibility.

 With regard to the credibility issue, I call your attention to the
 attached cartoon (this is a TIFF file download and view in a suitable
 program) I found circulating among participants in the CSD NGO forum
 following the Tuesday luncheon. [not available - rkm]

 I welcome any future opportunity to carry forward the dialogue on these
 and other issues at your convenience.

 With best warm regards.

Posted by Richard K. Moore - •••@••.••• - PO Box 26   Wexford, Ireland
Browse (not FTP): ftp://ftp.iol.ie/users/rkmoore/cyberlib | (USA Citizen)
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