United Nations Joint Statement

Joint Statement on the Global Compact proposed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations

Geneva, 5 July 1999

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, accompanied by senior UN officials, met today with the President of the International Chamber of Commerce, Adnan Kassar, and other ICC representatives to continue the dialogue the two organizations began in February 1998. The International Organization of Employers also participated.

1. The two sides reaffirmed that there is great potential for the goals of the United Nations – peace and development – and the goals of business – wealth creation and prosperity – to be mutually supportive.

2. The business leaders welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s call for a Global Compact between the UN and the private sector to promote human rights, improve labour conditions and protect the environment. The business leaders expressed their readiness to cooperate with the United Nations in this common endeavour.

3. It was further noted that a stronger private sector worldwide, and particularly the positive impact of foreign direct investment, are already making an effective contribution to the attainment of UN goals. Both sides saw the Global Compact as reinforcing the collaborative partnership between the UN and ICC that is now well established.

4. The participants agreed with the UN Secretary-General’s view that companies can best promote human rights and improved labour and environmental standards by the way they conduct their own businesses and by the spread of good corporate practices. By setting themselves high standards in these fields, they exercise a positive influence in their immediate environment and among customers, suppliers and business associates. By creating wealth and jobs, companies help to defeat poverty- the enemy of the humanitarian values espoused by the United Nations and shared by business. At the same time, companies cannot be expected to take on responsibilities outside their own sphere of activity that are properly the preserve of governments.

5. The participants recognized that the capability of companies to create wealth and to meet their responsibilities to their customers, employees and shareholders is indispensable to fulfilling the compact.

6. The participants agreed that the recent crisis in emerging markets underlined the importance of closer cooperation, not only among governments, but also among governments, business and civil society.

7. It was agreed that global markets require global rules. The aim should be to enable the benefits of globalization increasingly to spread to all people by building an effective framework of multilateral rules for a world economy that is being transformed by the globalization of markets. Business expertise is necessary to help governments to find the right balance between the freedom that allows the private sector to create wealth and employment, and rules that provide a background of economic stability and social cohesion.

8. The participants stressed the importance of a multilateral and integrated approach to dealing with complex and often interrelated consequences of globalization, among them the stability of financial markets. Such an approach is especially necessary for defining standards and rules to meet rapidly changing business conditions arising from global economic and financial integration and the worldwide spread of technological innovation. The business representatives expressed strong support for the work being done in this field by the United Nations and other major intergovernmental organizations.

9. The participants stressed the importance of the forthcoming Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization as an opportunity for its member governments to launch a new trade round. They considered that the early and successful conclusion of a new round would contribute to reinforcing the economic momentum generated by liberalization and to building a stronger rules-based multilateral trading system.

10. The participants recognized that, as history shows, improvements in human rights and in labour and environmental standards are more readily attainable in conditions of rising prosperity, produced by the interaction of the market economy and good governance.

11. There was agreement that a renewed commitment to open markets and the effective treatment of labour issues, human rights questions and the protection of the environment are mutually reinforcing and should go hand in hand. However, the rules-based multilateral trading system was not designed to address these non-trade issues. To call on it to do so would expose the trading system to great strain and the risk of increased protectionism while failing to produce the desired results.

12. The participants agreed that the UN, and especially those agencies that are charged with addressing environmental, human rights and labour issues, is the right place for dealing with them. Enhancing the authority, effectiveness and resource base of these UN bodies is the most productive way forward. Advancing universally shared values would help to safeguard open markets and provide a strong underpinning for the process of globalization.

13. The two sides noted with satisfaction the work already undertaken by ICC and UN Conference on Trade and Development to promote foreign direct investment in least developed countries. They look forward to further joint initiatives to encourage growth of the private sector and promote development in these countries.

14. The UN and business representatives agreed that a continued cooperative partnership between the UN and the private sector would do much to spread the benefits of globalization. Working together to promote human rights and raise labour and environmental standards will help create the conditions in which the UN’s ideals can be realized and business can make its full contribution to sustainable global prosperity.