July 5th, 2007 09:15 EST
Global Compact Leaders Summit to chart future course
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged action on climate change and other shared international concerns in an address to the Global Compact Leaders Summit – a gathering in Geneva of business leaders, government ministers, and heads of civil society groups committed to United Nations principles.
“This Summit is an important opportunity to take our partnership forward – in learning as well as action,” Mr. Ban told those assembled from over 90 countries. “Over these two days, we must make an honest appraisal of what the Global Compact has achieved, renew our commitments, and chart a courageous course for the next three years.”
The Secretary-General stressed the importance of joint actions to address climate change and announced the planned launch of a Business Leadership Platform on “Caring for Climate” – a joint project with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Mr. Ban recalled that since the Global Compact was launched in 2000 with 47 companies, it had grown to “what is today the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative, counting 4,000 stakeholders in 116 countries.”
The Global Compact “has lived up to its promise – bringing business together with other stakeholders, and infusing markets and economies with universal values,” he said.
Participants, who are split almost evenly between developed and developing economies, “have taken thousands of actions in support of the Global Compact’s ten principles” which relate to the environment and anti-corruption as well as human and labour rights.
The conference offers the opportunity “to assess the sea change that is taking place in the relationship between business and communities,” he said, pointing out that in today’s interdependent world, “business leadership cannot be sustained without showing leadership on environmental, social and governance issues.”
Mr. Ban acknowledged that progress in carrying out the Global Compact’s principles is still uneven. “We need to apply policies more deeply and specifically across the board,” he said. In areas that would benefit most from a robust global economy, business is still too often linked with “exploitative practices, corruption, income equality and other barriers” that discourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
Mr. Ban called on representatives from business, trade unions, academia and governments to do their part to ensure the Compact’s success, and pledged his full support in this endeavour “so that we fulfil the Global Compact’s aspirations and vision.”
Also addressing the Summit was Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, who called on those present to “combine the universal authority of the UN, the global reach of international business and the mobilizing power of civil society to confront” global challenges together.
The Global Compact seeks to promote responsible corporate citizenship by partnering the private sector with other social players to achieve a more sustainable and inclusive global economy.
It is not a regulatory instrument but relies instead on what it terms “public accountability, transparency and the enlightened self-interest of companies, labour and civil society to initiate and share substantive action in pursuing the principles upon which the Global Compact is based.”