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Challenges arising from the UNs Global Compact

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Challenges arising from the UN's Global Compact
Challenge for international NGOs
Challenge for multinational corporations
Challenge for the United Nations
Challenge for the planet: Lo-Cal Compact

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Part 5 of: "Globalization": the UN's "Safe Haven" for the World's Marginalized


Personal challenge for the UN Secretary-General

It has been said, cynically perhaps, that people only become eligible for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations if their characters and backgrounds are sufficiently flawed (in terms of the values of the time) for the permanent members of the Security Council to retain some extra "hold" over them during their period of office.

This was most evident in the case of Kurt Waldheim, whose double term saw a multitude of human rights resolutions condemning the perspective with which, unknown to many, he had been intimately associated during the Nazi period of World War II. In the case of Kofi Annan, it is difficult to imagine how any one could be more closely associated, in an official capacity, with two massacres and yet remain a credible appointee to the position of Secretary-General. But of course, in each case, he was just following orders, as has been the plea of others in authority in analogous situations - raising the question of how the legal positions are to be distinguished.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations at the time of his appointment, brings to the position a wealth of experience and expertise gained through more than three decades of service with the world Organization. A national of Ghana who is fluent in English, French and several African languages, he was appointed on 17 December by the General Assembly to serve a term of office from 1 January 1997 through 31 December 2001. Mr. Annan has had a remarkably varied United Nations career, focusing not only on questions of management -- administration, budget, finance and personnel -- but also refugee issues and peace-keeping. He has also carried out a number of sensitive diplomatic assignments, including negotiating the repatriation of over 900 international staff and the release of Western hostages in Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990; initiating discussions on the "oil-for-food" formula to ease the humanitarian crisis in Iraq; and overseeing the transition from the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in former Yugoslavia to the multinational Implementation Force (IFOR) led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) following the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement.

His appointment as Secretary-General on 17 December 1996 followed a period as Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping. The UN Centre on Transnational Corporations, that had long been a thorn in the flesh to multinational corporations, was transformed into the United Nations Transnational Corporations and Management Division, as part of Department for Economic Affairs and Social Development in 1 Mar 1992. This ceased to exist in July 1993, when activities were integrated into the work programme of UNCTAD. Subsequent to that there has been a series of largely undocumented steps in the corporatization of the United Nations and the rehabilitation of the image of multinational corporations. The Global Compact is presumably not the final step in this undeclared, and seemingly unauthorized, process. However the Secretary-General may find himself abandoned by those who appointed him, in order to distance themselves from it, if it proves to be embarrassing. He may be in a "plausible deniability" trap.

In effectively promoting globalization as a "safe haven" for the world's poor, the Secretary-General makes clear that he has failed to learn from his involvement in the traumatic consequences of UN promises in relation to Srebrenica. But this time, his actions as standard bearer may set the stage for the death of more than 7,000 Muslims. There is an eerie parallel to his use of the UN to usher the poor into a global environment controlled by forces of an alien culture and which, for their own survival, can in no way afford to share the universal values he may naively assume they should. Will history see UN-style globalization as the Srbrenica of the world's marginalized?

Despite Srbrenica, in his pursuit of peaceful and harmonious relations with multinationals, the Secretary-General seems unable to recognize the historical lessons to be learnt from appeasement.


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