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<nettime> corporate agenda
{ brad brace } on Wed, 23 Jul 1997 19:30:46 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> corporate agenda


>The following came to me via E-mail and I am passing it along:
>
>
>THE UNITED NATION AND THE CORPORATE AGENDA
>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 Commerice, 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 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 directionin 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 on "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
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
><< End of Forwarded message >>


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