Part 1: The UN and Corporations

Tuesday I went to an excellent side event by the Global Policy Forum who pre-launched what I think is an excellent report called Fit for Purpose: Private funding and corporate influence in the United Nations. 

I wanted to share some of the findings with you and suggest that you do download the report for a fuller read.

The UN Agencies and Programmes have had a mixed relationship with the corporate sector. This relationship has to some extent been forced  on them by a true lack of funding for the UN over a long period of time. 

As the report points out this has had some very worrying impacts most recently the incident over UN Women and Uber shows that some Agencies and programmes do not have in place robust systems to decide who they should partner with. This does require a clearly policy across the UN. Giving x to the UN should not come without some strong control as the company will benefit from the association with UN name. A worry is without that robust control then the UN name will be tainted by association.  

Member states responsibility for funding

As the UN chases some of the corrporate money one key recommendation of the report that deals with government responsibility I think should be considered very seriously this is that no funding should go to ‘other projects’ in an agency or programme until the member state has fulfilled their funding requirement for normal programmatic work.

2015 a lost opportunity 

I have been impressed with the work of UNEP FI and UN Global Compact that they have been prepared to throw out companies that do not adhere to their principles. I think this needs to continue and be more robust buts its a good example where the UN has been prepared to walk away from some companies.

In 2002 I worked with a number of corporations and NGOs on the idea of developing a convention on Corporate Social Responsibility based around the OECD guidelines - unfortunately it didn’t come to be.

I have supported while at Stakeholder Forum and since I left more accountability of companies on their environment, social and governance (ESG).  More recently in the runup to Rio+20 and in the Financing for Development process I have been working to try and secure a global commitment that all companies listed on stock exchanges should have to produce their ESG reports as they do their economic reporting. Although this has been supported by two UN High Level Secretary General Panels the wording in the FfD process doesn’t go as far as to suggest a date for this to happen a huge missed opportunity. Such requirements exist in the Stock Exchanges in Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Governments could even at this late stage in the Follow Up and Review have a paragraph calling on all Stock Exchanges by 2030 ( I would prefer 2020) to make it a listing requirement to produce their ESG report. 

PLEASE NOTE Coordinators of Friends of para 47: Brazil, South Africa, France and Denmark and members Switzerland, Norway, Austria,  Chile and Colombia  its still not too late.

Fit for Purpose: Private funding and corporate influence in the United Nations. 

This brings me to the Global Policy Forum’s Report.

Some of the recommendations I particularly like are:

“As partnerships with the private sector become more widespread and significant, it is essential that the United Nations put in place and improve existing integrity measures at all main interfaces with the private sector to protect its brand and reputation, promote responsible business practices and United Nations values and achieve greater coherence between the agendas of the United Nations and businesses.

Therefore, in line with the subsequent resolution of the General Assembly on global partnerships, the Secretary-General, in collaboration with agencies, funds and programmes should report on efforts to:
    • improve the Guidelines on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Business Sector, including from a gender perspective;
    • disclose the partners, contributions and matching funds for all relevant partnerships, including at the country level;
    • strengthen due diligence measures that can safeguard the reputation of the Organization and ensure confidence-building;
    • ensure that these elements are coherently reflected in relevant system-wide
  • This Secretary-General’s report should be undertaken through an open and transparent consultative process, and should be updated regularly in the same manner.
  • Upgrade UN standards related to reporting and transparency. Changing the way in which the UN interacts with the business sector also requires an open and transparent reporting process. This should include:
    • Guidelines for transparency and public reporting of existing practices and regular reviews of their relevance and adequacy to fit the purpose. These guidelines should also provide for comprehensive reporting requirements for UN-business partnerships.
    • Tracking and coordination across the UN development system in order to prevent duplication and competition within it, and for coherent reporting to the intergovernmental processes.
These are all very good recommendations I hope government will consider in the months ahead.

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