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Open letter – Corporate capture of global governance : The World Economic Forum – UN partnership agreement is a dangerous threat to UN System

Corporate capture of global governance: The World Economic Forum (WEF)-UN partnership agreement is a dangerous threat to UN System


Open letter to Mr António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations


We the undersigned call on you to terminate the recently signed United Nations-World Economic Forum strategic partnership agreement.

We are very concerned that this WEF-UN partnership agreement will de-legitimize the United Nations and provide transnational corporations preferential and deferential access to the UN System. The UN system is already under a big threat from the US Government and those who question a democratic multilateral world. However, this corporatization of the UN poses a much deeper long-term threat, as it will reduce public support for the UN system in the South and the North.

It is our strong belief that this agreement is fundamentally at odds with the UN Charter and with intergovernmental decisions on sustainable development, the climate emergency, and the eradication of poverty and hunger.  This public-private partnership will permanently associate the UN with transnational corporations, some of whose core essential activities have caused or worsened the social and environmental crises that the planet faces. This is a form of corporate capture. We know that agribusiness destroys biodiversity and sustainable and just food systems, oil and gas corporations endanger the world’s climate, Big Pharma weakens access to essential medications, extractive corporations leave lasting damage to countries’ ecologies and peoples, and arms manufacturers profit from local and regional wars as well as repression of social movements. All these sectors are significant actors within the World Economic Forum.

The provisions of the strategic partnership effectively provide that corporate leaders will become ‘whisper advisors’ to the heads of UN system departments, using their private access to advocate market-based profit-making ‘solutions’ to global problems while undermining real solutions embedded in public interest and transparent democratic procedures. The WEF agreement with the UN, and all other forms of corporate capture, seriously undermines the mandate of the UN as well as the independence, impartiality and effectiveness of this multilateral body, particularly in relation to the protection and promotion of human rights. For example, in the current discussions on a Treaty to regulate business activities, corporate capture of the UN – or undue interference by corporations on the UN – is weakening and compromising its ability as a multilateral body of government to hold businesses to account. Similarly, companies are increasingly making financial threats on governments and the UN when mandates are working on corporate accountability, the OHCHR mandate of the UN database on business in/with Israeli settlements is one example.

The UN’s acceptance of this partnership agreement moves the world toward WEF’s aspirations for multistakeholderism becoming the effective replacement of multilateralism. WEF in their 2010 The Global Redesign Initiative argued that the first step toward their global governance vision is ‘to redefine the international system as constituting a wider, multifaceted system of global cooperation in which intergovernmental legal frameworks and institutions are embedded as a core, but not the sole and sometimes not the most crucial, component.” The goal was to weaken the role of states in global decision-making and to elevate the role of a new set of ‘stakeholders’, turning our multilateral system into a multistakeholder system, in which companies are part of the governing mechanisms. This would bring transnational corporations, selected civil society representatives, states and other non-state actors together to make global decisions, discarding or ignoring critical concerns around conflicts of interest, accountability and democracy.

We call instead for strengthening peoples’ sovereignty, deepening democratic multilateralism and countering the further expansion of multistakeholderism. Public interest civil society organizations and social movements have played crucial roles in upholding human rights and environmental agreement and in the development of intergovernmental positions on a wide range of global crises over the past 75 years. To strengthen public support for the UN system for its next 75 years, we believe that your office as well the executive offices of the specialized agencies should host public consultations on the future institutional role and engagement mechanism with the most affected communities and organizations of the people, including among others women, workers, peasants, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ , human rights defenders, educators, youth, and scholars.  These communities which are human rights holders and are committed to preserving the common wellbeing of people and the environment; as well as to building a stronger, independent, and democratic international governance system must be treated differently from “stakeholders” who only have profit at stake.

UN should adopt effective mechanisms that can prevent cases of conflict of interest consistently throughout the entire system. Any policy in this regard should bear in mind the different roles of private interest and of rights-holders that look after common goods and benefits. Those private interests whose activities are in conflict with UN goals and objectives should not be involved with intergovernmental bodies or the Secretariat, whose focus should be always be on protecting common goods and providing global public benefits.

Mr Secretary-General, electing to build an alliance between the Secretariat and transnational corporations to save the UN system from those hostile to multilateralism and decreasing public funding, will destroy the UN system, not save it.

Copied to President of the General Assembly, the President of the Security Council and the Chair of the G77 with a request that this letter be circulated to all Governments as an official document.

List of Endorsers

Action Aid, La Via Campesina, FIAN International, Society for International Development, Transnational Institute, Plataforma América Latina mejor sin TLC, Friends of the Earth International, Red Latinoamericana por el Acceso a Medicamentos- RedLAM, Oficina para América Latina de la Coalición Internacional para El Hábitat, Southern and Eastern Africa Trade information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), Inclusive DevelopmentInternational, Corporate Europe Observatory, Centro Internazionale Crocevia, Arab Watch Coalition (MENA), Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) (LatAm), COPAGEN – Afriquede l’Ouest, CNS (Citizen News Service) –India/South Asia, Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa(Togo), LACCASO – Consejo LAC de Organizaciones con Servicios en VIH-SIDA(LAC), UNICAM SURI/ Universidad Campesina. Sistemas Universitarios Rururbanos Indocamericanos, Medical Mission Sisters(Global), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Global Forest Coalition, People’s Health Movement, Urgenci International Community Supported Agriculture Network, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) – Argentina, El Poder del Consumidor – México, Association for ProperInternet Governance – Suiza, CUT – Brasil, Brazilian Campaign for the Right to Education – Brasil, Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo – Argentina ATTAC – Argentina, National indigenous women and Girls solidarity Alliance – The Formosa Islands, Movimentos dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (MTST) – Brasil, Jubileu Sul – Brasil, FAOR – Fórum da Amazônia Oriental Brasil, UniónPopular Valle Gómez México, PAPDA – Haiti, Coletivo Popular Direito à Cidade – Porto Velho – Brasil, Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos ‘Segundo Montes Mozo SJ” (CSMM) Ecuador, Cedetrabajo– Colombia, Movimento dos Atingidos e das Atingidas por Barragem (MAB) – Brasil, Amigos da Terra Brasil, Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – Ecuador, CoopetarcolesR. L – Costa Rica, Justíciai Pau Barcelona – España, MazingiraInstitute – Kenya, ACTUAR – Association for Cooperation and Development – Portugal, Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA) Uganda, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) – Uganda, National Fisheries Solidarity/ Herman Kumara – Sri Lanka, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability – India, FIAN Belgium – Belgium, Participatory Research Action – Bangladesh, Food Security Network- Khani-Bangladesh, JothiSJ – India, Zimbabwe United Nations Association, FIAN Indonesia, Friends of the Siberian Forests – Russia, SEdRAChile, Jordens Vänner- Friends of the Earth Sweden, Amis de la Terre France / Friends of the Earth France, Transnational Migrant Platform Europe – Holand, AbibimanFoundation – Ghana, African Centre for Biodiversity – South Africa, Global Social Justice – Belgium, Association ForPromotion Sustainable development – India, EQUIT Institute- Gender, Economy and Global Citizenchip– Brasil, ManushyaFoundation Thailand, Abnaa AlnizeinOrganization in Missin– Iraq, SOSFAIM – Luxemburg, Proyecto Crecer con Esperanza – Argentina, FIAN Germany, The Equality Trust – United Kingdom, African Centre ForGlobal Health & Social Transformation (ACHEST) – Uganda, Center for Peace Education and Community Development – Nigeria, Justiça nos Trilhos – Brasil, Espacede Solidaritéet de Coopérationde l’Oriental – Maroc, FOCO.INPADE Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos – Argentina , Ecumenical Academy- Czech Republic, CCFD-Terre Solidaire– France, FASE – Solidariedade e Educação – Brasil, Asociación Morelense de lucha contra el Cáncer A.C. – México, Mrinal Kanti Tripra– Bangladesh, SaludJusta – México, Cultivate! – Holand, CoaliciónMéxico SaludHable– México, Kesatuan Nelayan TradisionalIndonesia/Indonesia Traditional FisherfolkUnion – Indonesia, Bread for the World/Brot fürdie Welt –Germany, WEED – World Economy, Ecology & Development– Germany, PhenixCenter for Economic and Informatics Studies– Jordan, Fran Baum Flinders University/People’s Health Movement– Australia, FIAN Sri Lanka– Sri Lanka, AttacFrance, Hermanas de la Misericordia de las Américas – comunidad de Argentina, FIAN Colombia, Aitec– France, FIAN México, Instituto de Estudos Socioeconómicos-Inesc– Brasil, Terra Nuova– Italy, The Best Father Project – Uganda , BLOOM Association –France, Red de Acción sobre Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas en México (RAPAM), Red de Coordinacion en Biodiversidad- Costa Rica, Rede Brasileira de Conselhos- Brasil, RAPAL Uruguay, Gestos– Soropositividade, Comunicação e Gênero- Brasil, Sisters of Charity FederationUSA, Grupo de Trabajo de la Sociedad Civil para Agenda 2030 – GT SC A2030- Brasil, MNCP – Movimento Nacional das Cidadãs Posithivas- Brasil, AMSK/Brasil, Observatorio Ciudadano- Chile, Fundacion Aguaclara- Venezuela, meliponario familiar Balam Cab- Mexico, Bioasesores Asociación Civil- Mexico, Educación cultura y ecología AC – Mexico, Casa Cem – Vías Verdes A. C.- Mexico, Observatorio Universitario de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional del Estado de Guanajuato (OUSANEG)- Mexico, Unidad de la Fuerza Indígena y Campesina- Mexico, Amansan Skill Training Institute- Ghana, Press freedom advocacy association in iraq, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, Sustainable Fish Farming Initiative (SFFI)- Nepal, Friends of the Earth Finland, Baby Milk Action IBFAN UK, COAST Trust- Bangladesh, Karen Environmental and Social Action Network – KESAN- Burma, Sherpa – France, Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association- Nigeria, Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights)- Indonesia, Focus on the Global South – Tahiland, Focus on the Global South- Philipines, FIAN Sweden, Caritas France, CAU-CI-   Côte d’Ivoire, SYNTAP Ousmane TIENDREBEOGO- Burkina Afrique de l’Ouest et du centre, Federation Nationale des Organisations Paysannes-  Burkina Faso, Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)

Tags: , , , Last modified: 17 December 2019