Towards a Human Rights based Market Economy
Some reflections on the sell out of the UN to the Transnational Corporfations.
Towards a Human Rights based Market Economy?
Defining a new role for Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations.
Some Reflections on the sell out of the UN to the Transnational Corporations.
Dakar. February 2008.
More than 25 000 people die daily because their right to survive is not guaranteed and enforced by the states, particularly in poor third world countries. The most basic of all human rights, that is the right to be free from poverty, is ignored by most governments. This is primarily caused by growing power of Transnational Corporations (TNCs). They do not only control the government of the most powerful country in the world, viz. the USA, but they influence most governments in the world as well as the international institutions of the UN. The growing gap between countries and within nations is growing and lead to instability, wars and increased mortality, especially among infants and children under five. Since 9/11 the USA aggressively promotes a freedom ideology, which it defines as freedom for the TNCs. The Monterrey Consensus brought public aid institutions in line with the policies of free trade, which henceforth was to be packaged as an integral part of democracy and human rights. The economies of the world are slowly but surely being incorporated within the economic interests of the USA and its TNCs. The author demonstrates how the so-called free media of the industrialized countries of the West protects big business from the objective and democratic interests of the people. While recognizing the importance of economic growth for development, it can only be sustained within the framework of human rights principles, guaranteeing the equal protection of everybody from poverty and preventable diseases.
This guarantee is not likely to be forthcoming neither from the United Nations, nor from any of the democracies led by the USA. Only the people themselves can defend their right to survive, which presumes their right to be free from poverty. The analysis proposes a significant role for non-governmental human rights organizations.
On Dec. 31, 2005 Exxon Mobil’s Lee Raymond retired from his posts as the company’s Chairman and CEO. As a reward for a very long and distinguished career, he received a retirement package of US$ 400 million and a number of other benefits; including access to an executive Jet and one million dollars a year for making himself available as a consultant, in case he should be needed. In total his retirement remuneration is equivalent to US$ 141.000 a day or about US $ 6000 per hour, as per calculation by abc News. At the same time as Exxon rewarded Mr. Raymond for his services, it donated a more modest amount to the work of a UN agency in Equatorial Guinea. With a view to support girls education in that country Exxon Mobil generously donated US$ 400.000. Yes, Mr. Lee had indeed had a distinguished career. Since his employment with EXXON he became its president in1987 and CEO since 1993. When Lee Raymond retired on 31 Dec. 2005, he had made the company into the world’s largest business with more than US$ 377 billion revenue in 2006. He had successfully overcome the world’s largest oil spill disaster in Alaska caused by the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, when it spilled more than 30 million gallons of oil, causing the death of thousands of wildlife animals and fish. He had also successfully bought Exxon Mobil’s influence with the White House with the largest contribution to the Republican Party election campaign which assured the presidency of George W. Bush. During the 2000 presidential election cycle, Exxon Mobil’s contribution came to US$ 1.376 million, according to Greenpeace’s website. During his time working for Exxon and later for the merged Exxon Mobil, Mr. Lee did everything possible to ensure that the corporation for which he was responsible would excel regardless of which calamities it may cause for mankind.
His company did everything possible to prevent the international community from establishing standards to stop global warming. In 1998 at a meeting at the American Petroleum Institute, in which Exxon was a participant, Lee Raymond proposed a strategy of providing “logistical and moral support” to climate change dissenters, “thereby raising questions about and undercutting the ‘prevailing scientific wisdom.’ “And that’s just what Exxon Mobil has done: lavish grants have supported a sort of alternative intellectual universe of global warming skeptics.” Through Raymond’s chairmanship of Exxon, he bombarded the media with disinformation about global warming through financial support of numerous pseudo-scientists, including virtually all right wing Think Tanks, each one of which contributed to spreading disinformation detrimental to global sustainability . Lee Raymond of Exxon Mobil became the father of a denial industry, claiming that the science on global warming is inconclusive, writes George Monbiot in the Guardian Weekly . Lee Raymond thus ‘helped’ to set the world back at least one decade. During Lee Raymond’s time as head of Exxon, his Corporation increased financial support to many right wing Think Tanks. Mr. Raymond was particularly fond of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) of which he is still the vice President. The efforts of Exxon (Mobil) during the reign of Mr. Raymond to buy support paid off. Immediately, when George W. Bush took over the presidency of the USA the Kyoto protocol of the UN on measures to curb global warming was effectively shelved because of the resistance of the US government to ratify it.
I have chosen to open this analysis of the influence of TNCs on world affairs and governance with this brief reference to the distinguished career of Exxon Mobil’s Lee Raymond, because it shows us the power of the TNCs over national governments. He has demonstrated to the world what money can buy and how financial power can buy political influence to the detriment of the welfare of the international community, by bringing to a halt or slow down effectively the work of the international institutions, such as the UN and its agencies. The adverse impact on effective functioning of the UN by TNCs (TNC) such as Exxon Mobil is - moreover – being reinforced by the strategic interests of the USA, which is after all the only unchallenged global power. With the largest economy in the world, its GDP was about $ 13.2 trillion in 2006 thus producing more than 27 % of all products and services in the world. Through its control of the world’s oceans, it has the capacity to control militarily all international trade flowing through these oceans. The USA has one overarching interest, i.e. to ensure that it remains the world largest economic power with its businesses having access to all markets of the planet. To ensure this it will at all times try to use its military power to prevent any other country or group of countries to become a competing force. For this reason the USA seeks to prevent establishment of coalitions which could threaten its world hegemony. From this it follows that the USA has an interest in controlling the United Nations and preventing that countries use that institution as an instrument to contain its global power and interest. In an analysis of the present kind, which aims at presenting the inherent conflict between two trends of globalization, i.e. the promotion of free market policies on one hand and on the other hand the encouragement of human rights principles, references will obviously have to be made repeatedly to the USA.
“Through economic globalization, the structures of trade and finance are increasingly widening the gap between the rich and the poor, posing threats to global peace and to the earth. “ (World Council of Churches)
As I began to reflect on the contents of this essay, I recall three events, which have motivated me to reflect on the role and impact of the UN on the course of world events. Firstly, I recall the warning words of one of my senior UN colleagues, when I was the head of a UN country office in central Africa: You do not oppose the Americans. This ‘warning’ advice was uttered when I had advised the Government of Equatorial Guinea in 2005 on which partnership approach to adopt when aiming at improving the welfare for its children and their families: The one which the government had agreed upon since 2004 with one of the Funds of the UN, or one which had been proposed by the US State Department with support from the trans-national oil corporations, including Exxon Mobil. According to the US Charge d’Affaire, pressure had been made upon the government of Equatorial Guinea by the White House to give priority to a bi-lateral partnership with the USaid, rather than to the one already signed with the UN. The second recollection which came to my mind was the acceptance speech by the British author Harold Pinter at the Nobel Price Ceremony in 2005 . While he appealed to the world to always search for the truth, he concluded with many examples taken from the post second world war period that “The Crimes of the US have been constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a clinical manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force of universal good”, promoting freedom and human rights for the oppressed. The third event, which inspired me to proceed with the present essay, illustrates Pinter’s reference to the USA as a ‘force of universal good’. It came with the announcement that billionaire Buffet had contributed $ 37 billion to the Gates Foundation. With his donation in 2006, Mr. Buffett was quoted as saying that “Life has dealt a terrible hand to literally billions of people around the world…….” Mr. Buffett did not seem to realize that it was because of the policies of the USA that he had been able to accumulate wealth beyond his personal needs and that this accumulation had taken place at the cost of lives mostly in the poorer countries of the world, but also at home in his own USA.
Structure of present analysis
On the pages that follow, we will show the causal link between the policies of the USA in the area of trade and foreign affairs and the widening disparity among nations and within nations. We will argue that the activities and influence of TNCs, of which the largest ones are USA based, prevent the United Nations from carrying out its mission and moreover that the media keep a slur over the exploitative nature of these same corporations. The combined result of this is the daily death of 25 000 people, including children.
In the present essay we pursue a number of questions relevant to our analysis of the weakening position and impact of the UN on the direction which the world is taking today. In our search for answers to the questions raised we will particularly look into how the USA positions itself globally after the attack on 11. 9. 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Secondly we will assess the influence of TNCs on the behaviour of governments in general and in particular that of the USA. We will in that context also look at some of the instruments applied by these private corporations to influence public policy. Following this analysis we will take a closer look at why the UN has difficulties implementing its mission, while it seeks to adapt its behaviour to various sponsors. Finally, we will look at the role of a particular group of the TNCs namely those doing business with news and entertainment, since the way they impart and present the events of the world and particularly the behaviour of the TNCs will has a direct bearing on how the public position itself in the context of global politics and events. At the very end of this essay, we propose how civil society under the leadership of courageous NGOs can turn the ship around and create a new and better world for all.
Part I. USA: Global Policy Maker and Watchdog.
The fall of the Iron Curtain.
One would have expected that the growing globalization of commerce and communication would provide the United Nations with unique tools to advance its mission of promotion of peace and stability necessary for eradication of poverty wherever it exists and for protection of the rights of all peoples against violation of their humanity and right to development through health, education and other social interventions. But observations clearly show that this has not been the case. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain which symbolically indicated the collapse of communism in 1992 with the disintegration of the USSR, the number of countries in war has increased. In Africa, the under five child mortality, has stagnated or deteriorated in a significant number of countries.
Until the end of the cold war in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, the United Nations (UN) had made good progress in the world towards its mission. The UN was in general accepted as the global leader in terms of promoting a just world with equal opportunities for development of all peoples to fulfill their economic, social and political rights on basis of the principles of democracy and human rights. The fall of the Iron Curtain was seen by many as a failure of the principles of central government planning and regulation. The Government of the USA saw this as an almost divine sign to promote and to a large extent impose its type of government administration and ideology on the world in its entirety. Although the concept of ‘Government’ gradually became a bad word, US Government continue to seize any opportunity to aggressively impose its will and interest on any country in the world which did not already satisfy its cherished principles of freedom. The words of Woodrow Wilson have long been forgotten, when he in 1915 said that “No nation is fit to sit in judgment on any other nation.” On the surface the USA has made it appear as if it is a greater advocate for democracy and human rights than the United Nations. Some of the monitoring instruments on good governance and human rights are now routinely carried out by the US State Department. The use of the conclusions of these reports, published annually, as we shall see in the following, is to support national and security interests of the United States of America often by using the ranking of countries to intimidate their leaders by threats of various kinds, if they do not adopt appropriate policies. As we shall see below such policies are by and large synonymous with US business interests. These reports and other advocacy instruments coming out of the USA serve to build a front under the cover of democracy and human rights, while in fact they allow the USA to introduce free trade areas supporting the business interests of the TNCs. Actually, a country’s readiness to sign a free trade agreement with the USA is seen as an indicator of that country’s willingness to introduce democracy and human rights. The introduction of free market policies have so far only led to deterioration of living conditions for a majority of the people and the creation of a small group of super rich controlling the state apparatus, while remaining loyal to the USA. The decline of the influence of the United Nations begun in serious in the early 1990’ies. Its role is on the ground - gradually being replaced by the United States of America - and this trend continues.
The USA on collision course with the world.
The rise of the United States of America as the single most powerful nation in the world, at least speaking in military terms and so far also in economic terms, have contributed to reduce the influence of the UN. The USA perceives its grandeur and global position as the result of individual initiative and minimum interference and regulation by a central government. The official position of the USA seems to be that it does not only have the right, but it is its moral and God given obligation, to actively universalize its value systems and political institutions to all undemocratic and dictatorial nations in the world, as defined and identified by itself. One should not be mistaken to assume that this is being done for the sake of the world. Promoting the American way of life and its values worldwide is good for big business. The trans-national business corporations, such as Exxon Mobile, the Bechtel Group, General Electric, Fox, Citigroup, Goldman Sacs etc. most of which have their HQs in the USA, are seen both as the results of such policies and also as the best instruments to promote the same principles abroad, which made their own success possible.
Since the foundation of the USA 200 years ago, Americans have seen themselves as the savior of the world .The fall of communism brought discredit to socialism and even to social democratic systems, by which many European countries had succeeded to develop welfare systems with equal development opportunities for all of its citizens, while protecting the rights of the more vulnerable segments of their populations. However, since the dawn of the United States of America, following the genocide of the original Indian population, the Americans have felt encouraged in the image of a nation given a divine historic purpose. Through a subservient media, made to believe that it is free, the USA has been able to achieve a state of self-hypnosis and have created a nation of citizens who believe that they are the greatest in all respects, and not just great, but also the best. They believe that their culture and value systems underlying the political institutions and business conglomerates must serve as a model for the entire world. This optimistic belief carries within it the notion that the USA is the exclusive repository of the means by which a better world can be created. The confidence of the USA in its global mission are underlined in the Mission Statement of the State Department, which assumes USA’s leadership in fighting global poverty, aids, environmental degradation and deforestation. “Confronting these threats effectively is beyond the means of any one country, and calls for the principled American leadership aimed at achieving effective coalitions that magnify our efforts to respond to these critical challenges,” it is stated on the website of the State Department of the USA .
NSS sets the tune for USA’s role in the world.
The Mission statement of the State Department of the USA Government gets its justification from the National Security Strategy (NSS). Each presidential term begins with a declaration of a new NSS. The current one (2006) expresses the conviction that globalization holds the promise for a better future for all of mankind. The President states in the National Security Strategy that “Globalization presents many opportunities. Much of the world’s prosperity and improved living standards in recent years derives from the expansion of global trade, investment, information, and technology” . However, the security of the USA and its people is so important that it cannot be left in charge of others, such as that of the UN. The President of the USA concludes his NSS that “America cannot know peace, security, and prosperity by retreating from the world. America must lead by deed as well as by example.” Following this trend, the DoS mission statement stresses that globalization “….is expanding the exchange of ideas, providing an impetus for political freedoms. Millions of the world’s poor, however, have not yet benefited from globalization, increasing their risk of alienation. Furthermore, transnational threats have emerged from globalization, enabling the creation of deadly global terror networks, spurring crime that reaches beyond borders, and spreading disease via the most mobile population in history.” It is upon this background that the State Department and other branches of the Government of the USA define their leadership role in the world.
The State Department does not try to understand the reasons for these global threats, but merely notes that global problems, such as poverty, aids, environmental degradation and deforestation, will require American leadership to be solved, because “confronting these threats effectively is beyond the means of any one country and calls for principled American leadership aimed at achieving effective coalitions that magnify our efforts to respond to these critical challenges,” it is stated in the Mission Statement of the DoS. There is very little on the home page of the DoS which could suggest that the USA perceives even a coordination role with the UN, except perhaps for the WTO and the Bretton Woods Institutions. However, since the UN is there and does not seem to go away by itself, an additional challenge for the DoS is to push for more Americans to be given the opportunity to work in the UN and related institutions, since “it is vital that the US exert robust leadership throughout the UN system in pursuit of its values and interests.”, it is stated in the Mission Statement of the DoS.
US National Security and the growth of global poverty.
It is now widely recognized that free trade as interpreted by WTO and the UN at large only widens the gap between rich and poor. In spite of this the world’s most compassionate president launched his National Security Strategy in blatant disregard for its impact upon the world poor. The activities accompanying free trade policies worsen the social conditions such as health and education for a great part of the world’s population, and particularly so in the third world. No country better than Russia demonstrates the rapid negative impact of a deregulated economy following the fall of socialist Soviet Union. Until 1989 there were virtually no legal rich Russians, but in 2006 there are more than 500 super rich Russians with individual assets of more than $ 300 million, 5000 Russians with upwards of $ 30million and about 115.000 millionaire households. The world’s third richest man, Laksmi Mittal spent £ 31 million at his Kensington Palace Gardens residence on his daughter’s wedding , while the majority of his Indian country men did not have enough means to buy a proper daily meal. As a result of free market policies with its deregulation and privatization one finds the same trends in most developing countries. The rich get even richer, also in the third world. From the Guardian Weekly (June 30-July6, 2006) one can learn that the number of US dollar millionaires increased by 11.7% in Africa, the poorest continent of the Planet.
Free Trade and Mortality.
Against knowing better the world under the leadership of the USA continues to be coerced to adopt free market democracies wrapped up in human rights jargon. The attack on the world trade center in NY provided the USA with more arguments to accelerate this process. During the 1990’ies it became increasingly obvious that the peace dividend expected by the end of the Cold War did not benefit the world’s poor. Actually, the number of poor and hungry people, as well as number of infants and children dying was growing, especially in Africa, but also among the working poor in the industrialized countries. Since 1990 the under-5 mortality rate in 12 Sub-Sahara African countries out of 28, did not improve. In fact it deteriorated in seven of these countries. The UN agencies, particularly UNICEF and WHO, globally responsible for the technical support in the area of infant and child health, either do not have the expertise or resources to identify the very basic causes, or they are reluctant to address these basic causes, perceived as too sensitive to some of their donors. These basic causes are related to development policies affecting significantly the achievement of sustainable development. Infant and child mortality are among the best indicators of socio-economic development, since life expectancy at birth is determined by the survival chances of infants and children. Most UN agencies today practice what they refer to as human rights programming. The stagnating and at times deteriorating mortality rates of children indicate at the same time a worsening of the human rights situation in these countries. Infant and child mortality are directly associated with availability of health services, environmental health factors (housing, and water and sanitation), level of mother’s education, availability of medicine and trained staff and parents’ knowledge about childhood illnesses. That improvement in child mortality which took place before the early 90’ies in all countries was explained by a decline in the proportion of children who were malnourished and a reduced number of people living in poor environmental conditions (in poor housing and without adequate water and sanitation.). The deteriorating trends seen in some countries suggest growing poverty among a larger part of the populations. This supports the observation of an unfair and unequal distribution of the fruits of economic globalization. This negative trend, particularly evident in some of the poorer countries of the world, is also seen in most of the rich industrialized countries, for example the in the USA and in Germany. Le Monde wrote on August 18, 2007 that close to seven million Germans is now faced with daily poverty and depends on unemployment subsidy. This has come about because social reforms were introduced on basis of principles adopted from the private sector. The growing poverty in the world’s most powerful country was reported by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on December 20, 2004 quoting data from a report published by the US Department of Agriculture: “One in nine households at risk of hunger; half of poor families face multiple hardships”. For the informed ones, this was old news, since the “Number at Risk of Hunger Climbs for Fourth Straight Year, to 36 Million.”.
It could have been hoped when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, that the leader of so-called democratic nations would have taken the leadership in a way which would have benefited the entire world, and not just a small group of individuals and companies. But instead, one can observe continued exploitation of the third world, and exploitation of the working masses in the industrialized countries. A super rich elite emerged. The “ultra high net-worth individuals, who are those with more than 30 million worth of financial assets, increased by 10 % between 2005 and 2006. In all, there are approximately 85.400 such individuals. Together they control 24 % of global wealth . There is a general consensus on both side of the political center that this widening of the gab between rich and poor is the direct result of globalization of free market principles and their inherent emphasis on decentralized administrations and privatization. This in turn makes it more difficult for governments to ensure even the basic human right to survive.
With growing poverty and inequality, the world came to witness an increased number of conflicts, often erupting into open civil wars within states and outright war among other states. It is estimated that Sub-Sahara Africa has lost at least an amount equivalent to the total of foreign aid received since 1990. Almost half of Africa’s countries have been involved in some kind of conflict since 1990, according to an Oxfam study from 2006 on Africa’s Missing Billions. A study undertaken at the USA Army Command and General Staff College fort Leavenworth concludes that the many conflicts in Africa in part are caused by the increased liberalization and expansion of international trade, which has occurred in the aftermath of the Cold War.
The Millennium Development Summit.
At the end of the 90’ies the impact of current foreign and aid policies became so evident that something had to be done urgently. The planning of yet another window dressing conference to cover up for the global misery began and gave at least the impression that something was being done to address the problem. The UN called for yet another summit, which should become the Mother of all Summits. In the year 2000, the Millennium Development Summit took place in New York. This summit attempts to summarize all preceding summits by setting goals for all nations to be reached by 2015. The Millennium Development Goals and its Declaration approved by virtually all leaders of the world were to bring focus to the role of the UN and provide it with a road map for its leadership.
Heads of States renewed their commitment to the UN in the Millennium Development Declaration . In its opening statement the Declaration read: “We, heads of State and Government, have gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 6 to 8 September 2000, at the dawn of a new millennium, to reaffirm our faith in the Organization and its Charter as indispensable foundations of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world”. The Declaration read further, while reiterating other declarations made over the last twenty to thirty years, including the Declaration on Rights to Development: “We are determined to establish a just and lasting peace all over the world in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter. We rededicate ourselves to support all efforts to uphold the sovereign equality of all States, respect for their territorial integrity and political independence, resolution of disputes by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, the right to self- determination of peoples which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation, non-interference in the internal affairs of States, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the equal rights of all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion and international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character”.
This declaration is in fact a confirmation of UN member states to the leadership of the UN with regard to promotion of peace and development in the world, through establishment of democratic institutions, guided by the principles of human rights, while respecting the sovereignty and dignity of the people concerned. The UN mission is and continues to be to globalize human rights with the long term goal to ensure an environment conducive to equal development for all peoples and all nations.
However, events which followed in the heels of the Millennium summit would soon make a mockery out of the declaration and the aimed for leadership of the UN.
The world and the UN in the post 9/11 era.
The promising words of the world’s leaders and the commitment they made with regard to support the UN in its global leadership role took on another meaning only one year after the closure of the Millennium Development Summit. On September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington were hit by a terrorist attack and a little less than 4000 people died as a result. This event turned out to be of particular significance for the entire planet. Although the industrialized countries, including the USA and the other G8 countries, had made firm commitments to finance the implementation plans, which would contribute to achieving the MDGs, it became soon obvious that the priorities had changed after the 9/11 event. For the first time since 1997, development assistance fell between 2005 and 2006 in effective terms. Only five small countries, composed of the three Scandinavian countries, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, satisfied the target set long time ago by the UN at 0.7 % of the GNP. Whatever little progress had been made on the MDG during the initial five years, especially in Asia, is at risk, if the industrialized countries do not respect their commitment, said the UN Secretary General in his progress report.
Foreign Aid consolidates poverty and free market capitalism.
The USA would like to have the world believe that what serves US national interests is serving equally the interests of the entire world. “Open markets, and the prosperity that ensues, generate resources to support public services, such as health and education, and promote accountable government”, states the Strategic Plan of DoS and USAID for the financial years of 2004-2009 . The promotion of Free Markets and Trade take center stage at the development assistance of the USA to the developing world. The Strategic Plan declares that “Our diplomacy and development assistance will advance economic security, growth, and open markets……….” It is absolutely essential to the economy of the USA that it has free access to the world market, since US firms have more than six trillion dollars invested abroad. In that context, the development assistance strategy of the USA resembles mostly that of a country which aims at building a global empire, serving its own ends. This approach to development aid to the poorer nations of the world is forcefully being transmitted to the UN agencies. The TNCs, through the government of the USA, took the leadership at the UN conference on financing for development in Monterrey in 2002. Here an international consensus for development assistance was achieved, which in fact will increase the dependency of the global economy on that of the USA. The DoS and USAID Strategy Plan reads that “we will promote sound governance and market-oriented economic growth that will enable other countries to become increasingly prosperous and interconnected with the United States…..”
The development aid principles emerging at Monterrey are founded within free market policies. It became the adopted view of the UN that one cannot have good governance and freedom, unless they are implemented in the context of free trade. This came out clearly in the Monterrey Consensus (March 2002), strongly promoted by the USA with support by the WB, IMF and the WTO. It was followed by the Millennium Challenge Accounts in the USA, which in the spirit of the Monterrey consensus makes aid conditional on good governance and economic freedom. MCC’s and the Monterrey Consensus missions aim at reducing global poverty through the promotion of sustainable economic growth, which depend on the introduction of free trade areas.
Disregard of Key Conventions and Protocols
With the Monterrey Consensus economic trade principles became significant criteria for donor relations with poor countries. As the self-proclaimed moral leader of ‘civilized nations’ one could have expected that the USA would have taken firm positions on a number of key issues essential for peace and development. But instead some key conventions were to remain non-ratified by the USA and a few other industrial nations, among which Australia is seldom absent. While global economies in general terms have blossomed with the advancement of the free market, and TNCs have experienced profits exceeding all previous records, infant, child and maternal mortality indicators did not improve significantly, especially in Sub-Saharan African countries, where they mostly deteriorated. The fact that the UN rarely is able to act in a consensual way on major key strategic issues, often because of the unilateral position of the USA, has very serious implications for all of mankind in the long term, as well as some tragic implications especially for the poorer countries in the short term. Conventions and protocols not ratified by the USA include: The Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, Ban on anti-personal landmines and prohibition of sale of light weapons and small arms.
A majority of UN member countries agreed in 1997 to the Ottawa Convention. It directs states to ban anti-personnel landmines, particularly because they maim indiscriminately. As this paragraph is being written Congress of the USA has approved of a budget, running into more than one billion dollars to develop two new types of anti-personnel landmines with a view to by-pass the ban imposed by the international community. This is equivalent to about half of the annual budget of UNICEF. The United States of America does not agree to destroy its stock of mines, or to eliminate their use. The President of the USA, Mr. G.W. Bush, said in 2004: “The United States will not join the Ottawa Convention because its terms would have required us to give up a needed military capability”. The ‘military capability’ referred to by the US President enables the USA to maintain its control over all key areas which are essential for securing markets for its TNC. On 6 December 2006 the US was one of 17 states that abstained from voting on UN General Assembly Resolution 61/84 supporting the full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. It has abstained on each annual pro-ban UNGA resolution since 1997. If the USA was to ratify this convention, it is almost certain that the remaining few countries would follow suit. Over hundred million anti-personnel landmines are presently scattered around the world, affecting more than 60 countries. Landmines kill or maim an average of 70 people every day or on annual basis 25’000 individuals, many of them children.
In 2001 the UN hosted yet another conference – this time on Illicit Trade of Small Arms. It was a continuation of another milestone event, when delegations in Vienna had agreed in March 2001to recommend a legally binding Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition. If this initiative had succeeded, it would have helped to bring to a halt a number of violent conflicts, especially in Africa. More than 500 million small arms and light weapons are in circulation around the world – one for about every 12 people. They were the weapons of choice in 46 out of 49 major conflicts since 1990, causing four million deaths – about 90 per cent of them civilians, and 80 per cent women and children. Two million children have been killed in the last ten years in conflicts where small arms have been used; five million have been disabled; and twelve million left homeless. However, a number of countries, especially the largest arms manufacturers, among which count the USA, did not agree to take the legal consequences of the illicit trade of small arms and to set up mechanism to bring this trade to a halt.
These examples show that without the support of the USA, the initiatives of the UN will lead nowhere. This applies to global warming and climate change, bringing a stop to anti-personal mines, controlling the sale and distribution of small arms and several other conventions and protocols.
What motivates the USA from supporting sustainable peace efforts?
It makes good sense to ask why the USA and its government would be against ratifying protocols and conventions, which most of the world considers essential not just for the survival of the entire planet, but for the welfare and development of all of mankind, especially for the populations in developing countries.
A study undertaken at Stanford University in 1999 by a Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks makes some interesting observations in a thesis entitled “Emerging non-traditional security Issues for the New Millennium” (ENSI). He demonstrates with exact figures the adverse implications for the armed forces if the USA Government should ratify a number of international conventions and protocols. Among the protocols and conventions chosen as examples of non-traditional security issues, he refers to the Kyoto Protocol, the Ottawa Protocol banning anti-personnel landmines, and the Convention of the Rights of the Child. He argues that compliance with such international conventions and protocols will influence the ability of the USA to shape the outcome of world events. From the perspective of a nation, which is always convinced of its divine righteousness, this would obviously be good enough reasons for not becoming party to international agreements which would limit its freedom to disregard welfare of the world’s population. The military combat preparedness and capability would be severely reduced should the USA ratify these conventions and protocols, simply because the army would be unable to undertake the required military exercises and moreover it would be unable to recruit the necessary personnel to the armed forces, if the recruitment age should be raised to eighteen years of age as prescribed by Convention on Child Rights.
The USA Department of Defense has launched several initiatives designed to integrate environmental and human rights concerns into the development and production of new weapons systems. In the meantime and until ‘environmental weapon systems’ have been developed, the USA simply does not ratify a number of protocols and conventions. This behaviour resembles much that of a rogue state ruled by dictators unaccountable to the people. In fact most citizens of the USA are kept ignorant about such global key issues, because of the media’s dependence on corporate power, as we shall see later in this essay. The research project on ENSI sponsored by the US Army War College and carried out at one of the most prestigious universities in the USA, underlines how pervasive has become the doctrine most firmly put forward by Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense and former World Bank director: The USA must at any cost lead and remain the worlds superpower number one.
Globalizing the freedom ideology.
The USA has never hidden its wish to dominate other nations and that its ulterior objective has always been to serve its domestic and national security interests; but it has always done so under the pretext of helping the ‘beneficiary’. However, since the 9/11 event in 2001, the USA has become more direct and aggressive in its imposition of democracy and human rights, as defined by itself. The USA continues to apply an approach which conceals its real objectives. In its arrogant self-righteousness, the USA seems unable to recognize any fault on its own part, when it suffered what it perceived as an unprovoked attack. It is, however, not unreasonable to ask if an attack is unprovoked, when the object of the attack conducts a foreign policy which impacts adversely on the daily lives of billions of innocent people and daily kills about six times as many people than those who died in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. The USA reacted as if it was the first victim of ‘terrorism’, when the conflict in Northern Ireland actually resulted in far more casualties than those who died in NY. But as numerous annalists have pointed out, this event provided the USA with an opportunity to universalize those values, which had the best chance of maximizing the profits for TNCs and a number of influential individuals with many vested interests in those same corporations. According to much documentation, prepared prior to 9/11, but which only appeared after the event, plans which open the market for US based corporations, were ready to be implemented, but awaited only a good reason. 9/11 provided such a justification. Now was the chance to act preemptively and if need be without any approval and consent by the international community – a new faceless enemy had appeared and would give the USA adequate excuses to ignore the international community while it promotes American business interests, under the pretext of advancing democracy and human rights in the world.
By its control of the media, often through intimidation –as we will see below – the USA presented itself as the benevolent savior of freedom for all in a world threatened by terror. The truth is that the aim of the USA is to promote a world where the states open its frontiers for American products. Free trade Areas would be developed by taking one country after another and by playing each country strategically against its neighbours to allow the USA to come to its rescue .Unfortunately, for the USA and those in support of its policies, such as the WB, IMF, the World Trade Organization and ‘the countries of the willing’, the adverse impacts of a free market economy, unregulated by government, have been well documented. Those policies contribute to widening of the gap between rich and poor and between the already developed countries in the north on the one hand and the poor undeveloped countries in the South on the other hand. In order not to alienate its supporters and to gain those in doubt about its real motives, the USA had to launch its fight against terrorism in a subtle way. There had to be broad agreement about one significant issue, i.e. that poverty does not breed terrorism. If the USA had consented to the significance of poverty, it would have to adopt other strategies than those which follow from the objective of advancing free market policies. In fact they would have to invest all resources in the fight against poverty, exactly as they had committed themselves to doing in the declaration which emerged from the Millennium Development Summit. The Commission charged with assessing what went wrong, when the USA was attacked by a handful of individuals, concluded that it is repressive and non-democratic regimes, which breeds terrorists, and not poverty and not injustice. In non-democratic states, people are not free as defined by the advisors to the US Government, especially Freedom house and the Heritage Foundation. By introducing democracy through the door of a free and unregulated economy, supported by the rhetoric of human rights principles, the door would be open for the TNCs. 9/11 provided the USA with the opportunity to spread the gospel of free market policies under the heading of democracy and human rights, with emphasis on individual freedom and initiative. Globalization became synonymous with a global economy and thereby serving the real power brokers of the world: the Transnational Corporations.
The Game for Hearts and Profit.
The recommendations prepared by the Commissioners, who authored the 9/11 Commission Report , focused on how to capture the mind and hearts of the youth in countries with repressive regimes. The challenge is to make them realize that the American way is the best way for them, because it provides Hope. The role of the Media and Free Market Policies occupied a prominent position in the recommendations.
The recommendations of the Commission were threefold. Firstly, a firm message reflecting the heart and mind of the USA must be created. The vision which the commissioners wish to market is HOPE. The young generation in the world must have hope in the future. The good example of the USA is expected to help them to nourish such hope with a view that their ambitions and passions can have a constructive outlet, rather than anger and terror turned towards the USA. A key recommendation is that “We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring for our neighbours”. Children and youth in the world, particularly in the Muslim world should be brought to learn about the good example of the USA, a country ruled by dignity and democratic values, it reads in the 9/11 Commission Report; Secondly, the USA should support education and information through the media which will market this message. The message to be transmitted show a different world where people are treated humanely and where opportunities exist for all; and thirdly the USA must accelerate the promotion of free market policies, which are the sine qua non that will enable the development of a local economy by supporting domestic economic reform – a process which has already begun with Free Trade agreements with individual countries. Free Trade Areas are considered a most crucial element in the fight against terrorism. In the long term it is free market policies which hold the solutions to a better world, according to the authors of the 9/11 Report, “Economic and political liberties tend to be linked(..) Those who develop the practice of controlling their own economic destiny soon desire a voice in their communities and political societies” (p. 378). The free market is the solution to peace and development and especially the instrument by which terrorism should be fought. Instead of having repressive regimes creating frustrating youth, the free market will lead to democratically elected governments guided by human rights principles and above everything else it will leave initiatives to the private sector. A new generation will grow up, who will be grateful to the USA for having given them hope and opportunities. Such is the heaven envisaged by the authors of the 9/11 Commission Report – a heaven mainly to be made possible by free market policies. As we shall see later in this expose the media houses and the multi-national corporations are meant to play a significant role in this global game for hearts and profits with the implicit objective of creating a global empire under the leadership of the USA.
Human Rights to justify USA’s world hegemony.
Since the USA likes to consider itself a state in which the rule of law applies, it was only to be expected that the House of Representative and the Senate would immediately follow up upon the 9/11 Commission Report’s recommendations. Not only would the recommendation emanating from the Commission be useless unless supported by appropriate budgets, but much of the interventions already undertaken by the USA since 9/11/2007 would lack legal justification. With the legal follow up to the recommendations, the USA will be able to speed up its empire building.
Two outcomes of the recommendations deserve particular mention. The first one is the
Advance Democracy Act of 2005. The objective of this act is “to advance and strengthen democracy globally through peaceful means and to assist foreign countries to implement democratic forms of government, to strengthen respect for individual freedom, religious freedom, and human rights in foreign countries through increased United States advocacy, to strengthen alliances of democratic countries, to increase funding for programs of nongovernmental organizations, individuals, and private groups that promote democracy, and for other purposes”. This objective shows clearly the ideological emphasis of USA foreign policy. A strong sense of ‘we know better how to define democracy and human rights in any part of the word’. The United States of America’s lawmakers assume that the values upon which the Independence Declaration of the USA are built are universal. Imposing these values on other countries would therefore be justified. The Advance Democracy Act resulted in the following creations:
? Establishing a new office of Democracy Movements and Transitions at the State Department and separate Regional Democracy Hubs at several embassies abroad;
? Creating a Democracy Promotion Advisory Board to provide outside expertise to the U.S. Government;
? Authorizing $250 million in increased funding for democracy promotion over two years;
? Requiring an annual report on democracy to include action plans to promote democracy in non democratic countries; and
? Providing training and incentives for State Department personnel in the promotion of democracy
The final and last step of the implementation of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission was crowned with the passing on July 27, 2007 by the US Congress of Legislation to promote Democracy and Human Rights abroad. This legislation includes the provisions referred to above in the Advance Democracy Act. The Chairperson of the House of Representative’s Foreign Committee said in the press release following the passing of the bill into law by both the House and the Senate that “The passage of this important legislation heralds a new era in the worthy effort of democracy promotion around the world”. The press release added a statement by one of the co-authors of the new law, Senator McCain, who is the Republican front runner for the presidential nomination in 2008: “The expansion of democracy and freedom is inseparable from the long term security of the United States and is intimately bound with the values Americans hold dear. We must, I believe, promote democracy, the rule of law and social modernization just as we promote the sophistication of our weapons and the modernization of our militaries.” As John McCain made this declaration his country was already implementing the promotion of democracy in Iraq with all the might of the military power of the USA.
Apart from the efforts of the USA to impose democracy on Iraq by military means, the most serious example of its willingness and readiness to impose its will and policies upon the world is provided with the establishment of Africom in February 2007.
AFRICOM: saving Africa.
In early 2007 the President of the USA decided that it was time to come to the ‘help’ of Africa, although no African country had requested his support. The decision of the US President underlines once again the arrogance of the USA and its strong sense of righteousness, characterizing its relations with the world. International protocol normally demands that a country must request support before a donor provides any assistance. If a country needs support from the international community, it will normally forward a request to the UN. However, in this case, the President of the USA decided in February, 2007, that the time had come to actively assist the development efforts of Africa. It was decided that this support should be provided under the leadership of the Department of Defense, specifically by a new command center referred to as Africa Command, or for short AFRICOM.
It is expected that Africom will be effective from October, 2008. It is only right to question the motives behind this creation, which was never requested by any African state, or by the African Union. Actually, its creation met strong resistance from African states. Is this an altruistic action undertaken to help the increasingly poor African countries to advance in the area of education and health, or is this yet another example of the condescending attitude characterizing the foreign policies of the USA, which assumes that the entire world falls within its domestic security concerns?
On February 6, 2007, the President of the USA stated that “AFRICOM will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa” . By the end of 2007 Africom had not yet found an African country willing to host this new set-up, in spite of its declared altruistic purpose. Perhaps the observations from Iraq and other countries receiving US military support scare volunteer countries for AFRICOM. The Council on Foreign Relations commented the creation by noting that it suggests “a more robust effort to fight Aids and other diseases in Africa, to encourage democratic and market economic reforms, as well as to prevent states from collapsing and providing fertile ground for terrorists”. Most importantly for the creation of Africom at this particular time, when things have not developed as foreseen in the Middle East (Iraq) is the fact that Africa may outstrip the Middle East as a supplier of Oil to the USA by 2015. Another reason for the establishment could also be the increased presence of and competition with China on the continent for its resources.
To slur the actual objective of AFRICOM even more, it was decided that it shall be composed of interagency staff drawn from the Department of State, including the USaid. This interagency structure of Africom is particularly significant, in the context of lessons learned, particularly from the Iraq war. Here the USA is learning that building democratic institutions, which will ensure lasting reforms in the areas of human rights and economic reform, beneficial to the national interests of the USA with introduction of free trade agreements, are long term objectives that cannot be imposed overnight by military force.
The appointed general to head the US Africa Command gave an update to the House Armed Services Committee on Nov. 14, 2007. He said among other things that the security issue (another way of referring to fighting terrorism), must be defined broadly and must be approached holistically - hence the need to integrate staff from other agencies in the Command. This will allow giving muscle to the USA Governments efforts to maintain the assurance of an uninterrupted oil flow from African countries, and especially from the strategic Gulf of Guinea countries, including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome, Gabon and Angola. The coordination with non-military agencies, such as USaid will give the initiative an appearance of support to Africa’s efforts to advance democratic and human rights institutions. In fact an uninterrupted access to energy is a pre-condition to guarantee USA’s world hegemony. Without such access the military machinery with its present day technology will become useless. At the same time, Africom will help to ensure the continued presence and security of the TNCs. Their operation is under daily threat in the oil rich Niger Delta in Nigeria, where the resistance to Chevron and Shell’s oil exploitation is growing daily. The Nigerian government has been unable or unwilling to involve the local communities in these projects, largely managed by foreign firms. This has not only resulted in an apparent lack of considerations for environmental concerns, but also in gross neglect of the human rights of the population most directly affected by the work of these trans-national companies. It is therefore pertinent to take a closer look at some of the issues raised above being advanced by the impact of globalization of the economy and democratization and human rights as well.
Part II. The TNCs: The Power to control and influence.
Protecting and promoting economic growth.
While it is becoming increasingly obvious that the borderlines between the large corporations and the respective western governments are intertwined, it can be very difficult to see who controls whom. When the French President intervened in a case in Libya, where foreign nurses were accused of murdering hundreds of children, their release was secured at the same time as the French military industry obtained a huge contract with the Libyan government and the isolation of Libya came to an end with the visit of its president to France. The President of the USA invades Iraq, bombs it almost back to the Stone Age with its entire infra structure destroyed. The USA approved the largest ever budget, since the Marshall plan, to rebuild Iraq. American based companies, Hamilton Burton, Bechtel, and many others apart from the military industry, gained billion dollar contracts. This is not despicable in itself, but it becomes unethical, when one learns that the CEOs and former CEOs of these companies were former administration official or are holding high posts in the US government, such as the Vice President, who was the CEO of Hamilton Burton before joining the President at the White House. It is obvious that it is neither in the interest of the respective governments nor in the interests of the TNCs that their relationships become too transparent and visible to the general public, who must be held in the belief that the decision makers were elected by them with the objective of creating better living conditions. For the general public.
CEOs of large TNCs, will often deny having any political influence. They are licensed to operate, but not to involve themselves in politics. They act as if their activities are apolitical, although several recent publications bear witness to the significant impact of the TNCs on the decisions politicians make. Such publications include The Bush Agenda: Invading the World; One Economy at a time, by Antonia Juhasz. It shows how intertwined big business is with the political class in the USA. It tells us how the decision to attack Iraq was made to secure markets for USA enterprises and to ensure an uninterrupted flow of energy to West European and North American countries. The observations and conclusions made by Antonia Juhasz are supported by several other observers, including John Perkins in his Confessions of an Economic Hit Man . Both publications provide the reader with a wealth of case studies which show how mainly USA based corporations build their global empires through the USA Government with support of WB, IMF and WTO, while brining about servitude, misery, and death to millions of people. The power and influence of these corporations have become so big that they threaten the very stability of democratic institutions and the world at large. They have developed their own self-sustaining autonomy of greed and growth, which only demands more growth supported by a mainly ignorant population of consumers. In spite of the evident twinning arrangements between the large corporations and the leaders of nations promoting free market policies, business leaders continue with the support of the global media, often owned by themselves, to plead ignorant about their influence on the policies which shape the world
In this essay we have often justified our arguments with examples from the USA. This is natural since it is the self-proclaimed leader of what it refers to as democratic nations. However, illustrations could many times as well have been borrowed from West European countries, including TNCs based in Europe. To make this point, we will now illustrate the behaviour of TNCs in the context of promoting free market democracies. We could have drawn on examples from multiple enterprises: Bechtel, Exxon Mobile, Chevron, Hamilton Burton, Total, Hughes, General Electric, Sony etc. Instead, we have chosen Royal Dutch Shell with HQs in the Netherlands and UK. We chose Shell because of its attractive consumer friendly image established after its association with the hanging of human rights advocates Ken Saro-Wiwa. Shell is also a member of the UN Global Compacts, suggesting that it is a respected and principled TNC.
Shell: Giving back to the communities.
Royal Dutch Shell boasts of employing state- of –the- art advertising companies to brand it worldwide. When watching some of Shell’s recent advertisements one is more inclined to associate this company with Greenpeace, rather than the hanging of the human rights advocate, Ken Saro-Wiwa. It is widely believed that Shell even had a hand in the Biafra war in which was killed more than one million people. Today Shell continues to be associated with the plight of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta, an oil rich area on Nigeria’s coast line to the Gulf of Guinea. Shell monopolizes here oil exploration in collaboration with some other companies, including Chevron and Exxon Mobile. In the early 1990’ies the author and Human Rights Advocate Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders demanded on behalf of the Ogoni people a share of the profits from the oil exploits, as well as being part of the administration of the explorations in their homeland. Moreover, they demanded that the pollution and contamination in their communities be cleaned up. They were executed by hanging by the Nigerian military dictator, General Abacha, in 1995. It is widely believed that Shell could have used its muscle to avoid the hanging of these leaders, whose death only led to more violent expressions for autonomy of the area. The activities by Shell show how far a transnational corporation is willing to go. In a communication I have had with Shell on this subject, Shell gives the impression that it has reconciled with the Ogoni people. Shell has assumed the task of cleaning up oil spills, as the spokesperson wrote to me, regardless of how the spills were caused. However, when one reads the communication from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), there are no sweet words or intentions of reconciliation with Shell until their demands have been met regarding assurance of environment protection, a fair share of the revenues from the exploitation of their homeland to develop it, and protection of their cultural rights as a distinct ethnic population, with its own language. The Ogoni people have not yet accepted the mediator, chosen by the government in agreement with Shell. It is important for Shell that its global image does not suffer from its complicity with the violation of human rights of the people in the communities which host some of its most important oil sources. At the moment, it is unable to fully exploit the potentials of the oil wells in the Niger Delta. Together with Angola, Nigeria now ship about as much crude oil to the U.S. as Persian Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Shell is aware of the perception which the public holds of it. Mr. Watts of Shell said in his quoted speech held in Sweden in year 2000 that “There are those who say that multinational companies in a global economy pose a threat to national sovereignty or democracy”. This is where the IBFs come in to protect the individual TNCs. corporations. The IBFs act as a buffer between the TNCs and the governments in the countries in which they operate and at the international level the IBFs are front for the business corporations with regard to the multilateral institutions. Furthermore, the TNCs protect themselves behind the cover of the image created by its media and communication departments. Image and brand building begin at home with an effective media and communication department, which will ensure that the public forms an image of a responsible and non-political corporation.
With offices and exploration sites in most part of the world where oil is found and with interests in refineries in six countries on several continents, including one in Durban – Africa’s largest - Shell is an example of a successful TNC. We will next take a look at how the TNCs influence national as well as international policies throughout the world and foremost in the county which lead the so-called free world: the USA. Therefore, we now turn our attention to the relationship between TNCs, largely illustrated with examples drawn from Shell, and two kinds of lobby organizations.
Shell’s Empire and its Global Support Base.
It is imperative for the TNCs to create a perception among the public that they are non-political. Their operations depend on a supporting and facilitating policy environment, often put in place by democratically elected governments. Therefore ,they are obliged to exert their influence indirectly. This, they do through two kinds of associations.
The first type of interest association is composed of members originating from the TNCs themselves. This type of association is characterized by the members holding common professional and technical interest and objectives. These association usually consider themselves as non-political. We will refer to groups or associations in this category as International Business Federations (IBF). Examples of International Business Federations would be the International Chamber of Commerce and the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue. IBFs, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, provide support to committee work at the US Congress and the US Senate, as well as to committees preparing rules and regulations guiding member countries for instance of the European Union. The support provided to the preparation of legislation is usually facilitated by Lobby Firms. These lobby firms ensures, for a fee, that the interests of the TNCs are being heard by the relevant committees preparing legislation for approval by the Congress, Senate or European Commission and not infrequently by individual states, as well.
The second kind of lobby group made use of by the TNCs to advance their global business interests consists of ‘Think Tanks’ most of them conservative and with well established connections to the political hierarchy in countries, which matter in global politics. Some of these Think Tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, provide key advisory staff to the US government. Others, such as the Heritage Foundation assist USaid to determine criteria for development assistance to any given country. We will now briefly look at these two kinds of interest/lobby groups to learn how they relate to individual TNCs, exemplified mainly by Royal Dutch Shell.
International Business Federations.
The policies, through which Shell and the IBFs of which it is a member, promote free market policies have far reaching impact on the daily lives of the population of the entire planet. Corporate members of an IBF dispose often of resources, which bypass those of several countries combined. Each individual TNC has in principle a real opportunity to influence a just and fair development for everybody together with the host governments in the countries where it operates. IBFs could indeed make significant contribution to positive changes throughout the world, if the will to do so was present. This is particularly the case, because several of the largest IBFs have hearing privileges with several of the international institutions, such as WTO, IMF, WB and some of the UN agencies. However, these professional international associations do not have as their mission to promote human rights, but to create added value for their shareholders, who often have no idea about what is going on in the world or do not wish to know what actually is taking place as a result of their investments.
With a view to ensure that its interests are maintained Shell plays leading roles in many IBF. Shell’s directors have held executive functions in several global International Business Federations and their respective standing working committees, at national as well as at global levels. Such IBFs include the International Chamber of Commerce; the US Chamber of Commerce; Transparency International, Transatlantic Business Dialogue; World Business Council on Sustainable Development; Business and Industry Advisory Committee to OECD; International Business Leasers Forum; Confederation of European Business; UN Global Compact Principles, and World Economic Forum. All of these IBFs, and more more share one common objective: The promotion of business worldwide by ensuring that national and international legislation support accessibility by the multi-national businesses to markets in any part of the world.
The members of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue, for example, of which Shell is also a member generates roughly $3 trillion in total commercial sales per year and employs up to 14 million workers. Obviously, an Association of this magnitude has a big voice in international hearings, whether it is asked to make presentation at meetings hosted by the G8, the Doha round table, or WTO. The Transatlantic Business Dialogue does not limit its influence to the transatlantic countries, but has a global aim: “A strong transatlantic relationship enhances the capacity of the US and the EU to jointly influence global developments for the benefit of all countries, whatever their stage of development”, it states in its Mission Statement on its website. All of these associations aim at influencing the political decisions of governments throughout the world to advance the rather narrow businesses interest of its members.
As far as Africa is concerned, Shells CEO, Mr. Jeroen van der Veer expressed in 2005 in a speech on the Role of the private sector in a changing Africa that “… business cannot act alone; governments need to create a supportive investment climate…” The priority of a private enterprise, such as Shell, is obviously the profit it can make for its shareholders through its businesses. The welfare of the citizens in any given country only becomes of concern at the moment, when the modes of operations affect adversely the welfare of the population and thus creates a sustainability risk for the corporation in that country. Therefore, the function of the IBFs and other lobby associations is primarily to prepare the ‘environment’ for the respective TNCs in terms of regulations and legislations, which will allow them maximum freedom to operate in a given country.
Shell’s active participation in the work of these IBFs underlines its global and trans-national orientation. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) informs the reader on its website that it champions the global economy with access to national governments in more than 130 countries. ICC believes that business operates best with minimum government interventions. On its website the ICC boast of being the equivalent of a ‘general assembly of a major intergovernmental organization. The big difference is that the delegates are business executives and not government officials’. Another big difference, not mentioned, is that the delegates of this IBF dispose of more financial resources than the government delegates of all of the general assemblies of the international institutions combined.
Shell’s representatives are good spokespeople for expansion of global markets. Senior Shell Representatives ensure that its business interests are taken satisfactory care of by IBFs, regardless of whether the job is with the national authorities in a given country. USA or with the international institutions in New York, Washington or Brussels. In speeches given to the public or to business associations, Shell expresses its concern about poverty in the world and the gap between rich and poor nations. It considers freedom for the TNCs to operate in any country of their liking as a prerequisite to economic growth. In a speech, Big Issues for Business, given in year 2000 at the annual meeting of the Swedish branch of ICC, one of Shell’s executives said that “………Global economic development is (the) best way to spread prosperity more widely and bridge the gaps within societies and between them”.
A sister IBF, but independent of ICC, is the US Chamber of Commerce with which Shell US interacts actively. During most of 2006 and 2007 Shell’s President of the Houston-based Shell Oil Company gave speeches to most of the local branches of the US Chamber of Commerce with a view to advocate for a new Energy Bill at the Congressional level. Through ICC, US Chamber of Commerce and other IBFs catering for the interests of the corporate world, Shell aims at shaping rules and policies that stimulate international trade and investments. The voice of ICC is receiving due hearing by a number of UN organizations, including WTO. The President of Shell USA has given hearing to the US Senate on Energy and Natural Resources and to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Shell’s chief in the USA is also serving on a number of influential boards, such as Foreign Policy Association, United States Energy Association and the National Association of Manufacturer.
Lobbying for freedom.
Shell works closely with the US Chamber of Commerce. The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest IBF representing more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions. It includes hundreds of associations, thousands of local chambers and more than 100 American Chambers of Commerce in 91 countries. It has its HQs near the White House. The US Chamber of Commerce has for long been associated with interests particularly promoted by the Republican Party. One of its projects is “the Center for International Private Enterprise” undertaken in partnership with the National Endowment for Democracy. It helps emerging nations to develop free market practices and institutions needed to succeed in the global economy .
In 1999 US Chamber of Commerce had lobbying expenditures in excess of US $ 18 million, which was an increase of almost 15 % since 1997. The Chamber reported spending almost $30 million in 2004. During the last six months of 2004 they paid fourty five lobby firm to lobby on thirty-two issue areas, including “Trade, Small Business, Labor, Healthcare, and Defense. The US Chamber of Commerce is number one in lobbying spending in the past decade, with General Electric ranking second at $161 million . Lobbying During the period of 1998-2004 the US Chamber of Commerce had lobbying expenditures of $204,614,680, and in 2004 alone it had lobbying expenditures of $53,380,000.
What is the ethical position of these IBFs today when the world is threatened with disasters which have an impact upon the entire world. We get a good impression of the ethical position of the IBFs by taking a look at the behaviour of the US Chamber of Commerce, which after all is the largest Global IBF. Although ICC can boast of a larger global coverage, USCC is, though, the most influential and also the most aggressive. On its website it says “We fight for your business”. And this is exactly what they did in the Philippines, when Nestle, a corporate member, had lost a case at the Philippine Supreme Court, which demanded that Nestle conduct its business regarding milk powder in accordance with international guidelines approved by the World Health Organization. The use of milk powder, aggressively promoted by Nestle and other pharmaceutical companies, led annually to the death of thousands of Filipino children. Nestle asked US Chamber of Commerce to come to its rescue. The USCC wrote to the government intimidating it to cancel the legislation. UNICEF, WHO and representatives of the Philippines government appealed the decision of the Supreme Court, and won eventually, but only after the defense lawyer acting for the children of the Philippines had been killed in what was to look like an accident. The Guardian Weekly wrote about this case under the heading: America puts profit above babies’ lives .
Although Shell has headquarters in Europe it also incurs lobbying expenditures in the USA. In 1999 it spent in excess of $ 4 million on lobby activities, compared with more than $ 11 million spent by Exxon Mobil Corporation . According to the US Senate Office of Public Records, Shell spent in the USA alone in 2004 on lobbying $1,020,320. During the period 1998-2004 Shell spent $26,608,088. Bracewell & Giuliani LLP received close to half of Shells lobbying expenditures in 2004, viz. $428,000. This Lobby Firm has more than 45 different clients for which it advocates their specific interests, including the FBI Agents Association, and the now bankrupt Enron. In 2006, Shell spent in the USA $2,428,696 for lobbying in 2006. $340,000 went to two outside lobbying firms.
The IBFs get good and effective support from another type of lobby groups, namely those which often are referred to as Think Tanks. For years they have provided the justifications for much of the visions and actions of the Administrations of the US Governments, especially those with republican and right wing leanings. Who are they? Who finance them? What is their links to the corporate world? What do they think of the international community and the United Nations? These are some of the questions, which we will address next.
Given the emphasis in the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission on ‘freedom’ and the presumed threat to freedom loving USA, Think Tanks promoting the American way of life received a renaissance after September 11, 2001. The degree of freedom defined by the USA was henceforth to be used to classify countries to determine their worthiness as recipients of USaid and their potential threat to the US homeland. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report were based on the conviction that terrorism grew out of non-democratic states. Terrorism has little to do with poverty. The degree of freedom and the application of human rights principles in a given state were from then on to be defined in terms of the potential threat of a given state towards the USA and its allies. Numerous private institutions stood ready to assist the USA Government to define and evaluate which states constitute a danger and paradoxically therefore also offer opportunities for future investments. There are far too many Think Tanks for us to review in this essay. If we consider only those Think Tanks which in 2002 received financial support from the Scaife Foundations, then we can count 27 Think Tanks. We will here be making reference to some of those which have had the ears of the two last administrations. These include the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Reason Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Before we take a closer look at the latter, we observe that these so-called Think Tanks are funded largely by individual donors. Think Tanks do not hide their political bias. Therefore, they do not attract large funding from the TNCs, which wish to be perceived as non-partisan. The great majority of Think Tanks receive less than half of their funding from business corporations.
Another commonality among them is their belief in their values and their readiness to prove “scientifically” that their ideology has universal application. Their values stress freedom at the individual and enterprise levels. They believe in minimum involvement of government and maximum initiative to free enterprise. These Think Tanks are almost by definition against any bureaucracy which could limit free enterprise and individual initiatives. It therefore goes without saying that they would be terribly against international institutions setting norms and standards for the USA, such as is the case of the United Nations. An example of an extremely powerful Think Tank is the American Enterprise Institute. It receives 40 % of its funding from the corporate world. This Institute provided many neo-conservative senior staff to the current US government, including such celebrities as Richard Pearle. Vice Chair of AEI is Lee Raymond, former CEO of Exxon Mobile referred to in the preamble to this paper. Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife is a senior fellow of AEI, as is Jeanne Kilpatrick, former US Ambassador to the UN. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, also counts among the personnel of AEI. Since June 2007, one of the scholars attached to AEI is US former Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton.
Below we will take a closer look at the Heritage Foundation, another famous Think Tank, not so much because of grand personalities associated with it, but because of its persistent hard work and thus significant influence on republican and right wing policies that continue to define the Human Rights’ framework of the lives of the lives of billions of people worldwide.
The Heritage Foundation.
A first indication of the perceived significance of the Heritage Foundation is the fact that it was the largest recipient by one of the four foundations owned by businessman and billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife. Among the more than 20 recipient right wing Think Tanks which receive regular funding from the Scaife Foundations, the Heritage Foundation received the largest amount. Combined funds received from the four Scaife foundations bypassed amounts donated to AEI, Cato, and the Hudson Institute. The largest funder of right wing causes and Think Tanks in the USA is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. It is the largest and most influential right-wing foundation in the USA. It is devoted to strengthening American democratic capitalism. With this mission it is also contributing to the daily functioning of the Heritage Foundation. As of the end of 2005, it was giving away more than $34 million a year. HF receives support not only from USA based organizations, but – at least - in the past also from agencies with links to foreign governments and intelligence agencies. This has to be seen in the context of HF’s influence on the development of foreign policy of the USA and in particular its support to anti-communist resistance movements throughout the world. In calendar year 2006 the Heritage Foundation spent over $40.5 million on its operations. That year the foundation raised over $25 million from individual contributors and $13.1 million from foundations. Although corporations provide only $1.5 million - 4% of Heritage’s contributions in 2006 - they none the less have significant interest in the foundations policy output. Contributions were received from defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, finance and insurance companies such as Allstate Insurance, Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, and American International Group (AIG), auto company Honda, tobacco company Altria Group (Philip Morris), drug and medical companies Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, oil companies ChevronTexaco and Exxon Mobil, software giant Microsoft, and chipping in over $100,000 each, Alticor (Amway), Pfizer, PhRMA, and United Parcel Service .
On its board of trustees one will recognize one of its key funders, Mr. Richar M. Scaife, Steve Forbes – a former presidential candidate, Robert J. Herbold – now retired from Microsoft.
The Heritage Foundation (HF) declares that its mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” It is widely considered one of the world’s most influential public policy research institutes. HF has been particularly successful influencing US foreign policy. it is best known for the support generated by its foreign policy analysts in the 1980s and early 1990s to provide military and other support to anti-communist resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua and other nations, a policy that came to be known as the Reagan doctrine.
The HF was actively involved in many of the most bloody wars in the third world during the 1980’ies and 90’ies “wars of liberation”. According to Source Watch HF “worked closely with leading anti-communist movements, including the Nicaraguan contras and Jonas Savimbi’s Unita movement in Angola to bring military, economic and political pressure on Soviet-aligned regimes. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Foundation’s support for the Nicaraguan contras and Angola’s Savimbi proved extremely influential with the United States government, including the Central Intelligence Agency”. The Heritage Foundation presented its case for armed support for these movements, and United States support soon followed. It is well known that these rebel movements, such as the Contras, supported by the USA government, committed many atrocities and violations of human rights.
Today, HF continues to be actively involved in foreign policy development. Through its publications and sponsorship of public debates it has a strong influence on public opinion, as well as a direct influence on the administration of US government’s development aid. It commented on the Advance Democracy Act which followed the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. HF found it too academic. The Foundation supports that the USA should work with dictatorships, when it serves US interests. The Advance Democracy Act dilutes the executive branch’s constitutional role in conducting foreign policy by over-prescribing analytical frameworks and tools, HF said in a press release .
The HF has been given a forceful role by the President of the USA in the management of funds to the poorest countries around the world. This task it manages within the context of the Millennium Challenge Corporation by identifying countries which practice ‘good governance’ and economic freedom. Based on information and statistics prepared by Freedom House , World Bank and IMF, HF plays a key role for the US Government with regard to which countries will qualify to receive financial and technical aid. HF is particularly responsible for evaluation of trade policies and the degree of economic reform in potential recipient countries. In this way, it becomes a key partner for the TNCs.
With all its foreign policy experiences, the HF could have become an important support to the United Nations in its struggle to promote human rights and development for all people in the world. However, given HF’s narrow focus on issues which primarily provide short term benefits to the USA, it is instead actively involved in whipping up anti-UN sentiments, throughout the world through its publications and website. When proposals for the UN budget for 2008 and 09 were presented to the UN General Assembly, HF did not miss any opportunity to smear this global organization. It invited John Bolton, former Ambassador of the USA to the UN, to make a speech for the Foundation. He spoke over the subject on: How to Fix the UN. The intention is to create confusion and doubt about the function of the UN. Some of the messages which came out of Bolton’s speech and other publications from HF are that: the UN is a waste of tax payer’s money; UN peace keepers act immorally, and UN no longer stands for freedom and human rights. In another speech by Brett Schaefer and also sponsored by HF, the speaker asks ‘Who Leads the UN?’ The message is that the UN is run by countries that are anti-US and in fact enemies of US interests. Through its various and many interlocutors, HF attempts to tell the world that the UN and its HR Council cannot defend and promote human rights in the world, because human rights abusers have influence and seats on the council. HF seems to forget its own role in human rights violations the so-called liberation wars in Nicaragua, Angola and other countries in Southern Africa and in South America. It also seems to ignore the US involvement in torture during investigations of terrorist suspects.
The Think Tanks, the International Business Federations (IBFs) the TNCs, all employ communications and media experts. Their websites contain special sections which contain digested news available for the media and provide information and debates which have been tailor made for TV, Radio and the printed media. We will therefore now turn to the Media to learn how they administer their responsibility vis-à-vis the public with regard to the relationship between TNCs on one side and on the other side the communities and governments.
Part III. The Media
The Media and Big Business.
In his ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ John Hopkins observes that “Our own (USA) government, in alliance with the big corporations and banks, has created an empire that brings servitude, misery, and death to millions of people”. But why are so few people protesting and raising their voices. The selfishness of human nature may play a big role in that respect. One does not want to get involved, when one is quite comfortable, eating at luxury hotels and living in high class residential areas, while the greater part of mankind lives in misery and in billions of cases go hungry to bed and die prematurely.
However, another significant reason is that very few recognize or know about this abysmal situation. Valid and reliable information about this reality is very difficult to come about. At this age of communication one has in principle access to information right at our finger tips. But the kind of information to which we have access depends on who controls the media. The media have become big business. It is not in their interest to present to the public a true picture of those who are in power and who decide about who will prosper and who will be doomed. In spite of a popular series referred to as reality TV, then TV and the Media in general is about making money and selling programmes. The living standard of an average family in a western industrialized country has been developed on basis of years, and sometimes, centuries of exploitation of communities in the third world. How is it possible to remain unformed, when we in the western world boast of a free press and proudly talks about investigative journalism? It seems that very few journalists today dares to investigate too deeply. Those, who do ask questions, risk getting fired.
Shortly into the first term of G.W. Bush’s presidency, a number of CBS journalists exposed the President of the USA for having evaded being drafted to Vietnam during the US-Vietnam war. It had actually been proven beyond doubt that the US President, G.W.Bush, used his fathers influence to dodge the draft and thus avoid being sent to Vietnam to fight in the war. A programme presenting this case was aired. Following the exposure of the patriotic ‘war president’ as someone who had taken what could be perceived by the American public as a non-patriotic approach by avoiding the draft, CBS launched an ‘investigation’ by a two person ‘Independent Review Panel’. At the end the CBS TV station apologized to the White house and to underscore the point, CBS fired the journalists who had investigated the particular programme. It is interesting to note that the Independent Review Panel in charge of the ‘investigation’ consisted of two individuals with strong ties to the Bush family, as well as to the corporate world. One of the ‘independent investigators’ was a former Attorney General to the old president Bush . He was the Attorney General who got Exxon Mobile off the hook, when it caused the largest oil spill ever with the vessel Exxon Valdez in Alaska. The second investigator was a former CEO of Associated Press, Mr., L. Boccardi, who in 2001 was selected to receive the John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award for ‘Freedom of the Press and the Public’s Right to Know’. In this particular case of the CBS exposure the US President as a draft dodger, he did not believe that the public had a right to know. It is another paradox that the CBS and many other reputable media did not hesitate to inform the public about Sadam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, although it was subsequently proven to be misinformation and placed by the government for the sake of propaganda for its war. This should not surprise anybody, once we know that the parent company of CBS is the media conglomerate Viacom. According to Greg Palast, a reputed journalist reporting for the BBC, the Guardian Weekly and other European media, the President of Viacom is reported to have said shortly before the presidential election that “from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on…. ……., and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one”. So much for freedom of the much acclaimed free press in the USA!
Civil Rights Violations.
We will present only one more example to show the nature of the media in the country which claim to be the leader of all freedom loving people. The example, to which we will address our attention now show the fragility of democracy in what often is acclaimed to be the greatest democracy in the world. In the year of 2000 during the final count of essential votes in Florida, the brother to the presidential candidate, the former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush ordered that all votes cast by imprisoned voters be taken out and disregarded in the final count. In that process thousands of other voters, mainly of Afro-American backgrounds, were also removed. A little less than 200.000 votes were removed. The United States Commission on Civil Rights undertook a scientific study of these violations of civil rights. One can find the conclusion in “Report on the racial impact of the rejection of ballots cast in the 2000 presidential election in the State of Florida , The report shows beyond any doubt that Blacks were far more likely than non-blacks to have their ballots rejected in the 2000 Florida presidential election. The higher the number of black voter registrants in an electoral constituency, the higher the percentage of votes rejected. That observation was statistically significant. There are good reasons to believe that a majority of votes cast by Afro-Americans would have been in favour of the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The Commission on Civil Rights declared that “there appears to be a criminal violation of the civil rights act. The Commission formally demanded that the Justice Department look into the violations which appeared to have occurred. However, a criminal case was never opened on this subject and it never received any attention by the public in the USA. However, according to Greg Palast – the hearings conducted by the Civil Rights Commission received coverage in the UK and Germany. It is tempting to imagine what could have happened if the ‘rule of law’ – a favoured W. Bush jargon – and civil rights had won in 2000 and if as a consequence the ‘victory’ of the Republican candidate, G.W. Bush, had been declared nil and void in 2000. Would we still have had a war on terror, following 9/11 with its subsequent aggressive advancement of the TNCs as we have witnessed in the context of the Iraq war.
“Good-for business” News.
In genuine democracies the media are expected to help the public gain access to news and to be the eyes and ears of the public vis-à-vis the state and government machinery. The media are also expected to be a significant source for elected decision makers. Instead, the State Machinery has been reduced to mere instruments of the TNCs, which now include global media companies. The media as it functions in the so-called free world do not at all threaten the current power structure. A representative of the largest media mogul, who among many other media owns the Center-Right Fox News, summed it all up, when he stated that “The News is what we say it is”. According to a documentary film entitled ‘Orwell Rolls in his Grave’ from 2004, by Robert Kane Pappas, the media no longer report news, but manage them. The media decide what makes the headlines and what is conveniently ignored. Ultimately, the media define the framework upon which most other issues are discussed by the society. Violations of human rights anywhere in the world will only be presented to the public as news, if it can sell. The priorities of development workers in poor third world countries are increasingly determined by what Bill Gates and Melinda consider good for the image of Microsoft. The same apply for other business sponsors for a better world.
The media have become big business themselves and although they may not yet have joined the Global network of International Business Federations, their parent organizations have. The parent organization dictates to the concerned media the agenda of the day, with regard to what to publish and what to put on the air. It is illustrating for the media that they consider themselves part of the entertainment industry. Even the daily news is announced as a ‘show’. News will not sell unless it is entertaining. In this way it is increasingly becoming impossible for the media to serve the general welfare and interests of the people. In fact they often appear to serve against the public interest, since a good proportion of programmes are financed by advertizing, which share the same characteristics regardless of the continent and cultural context. Advertizing has therefore become another tool for the advancement of the free market
The working context of journalists has changed significantly during the last decade. It makes a great difference for a journalist, when the media company for which s/he works is owned by for instance Westinghouse (a large appliance maker), as was the case for CBS in the mid-90ies. Change of ownership to Viacom did not improve journalistic freedom very much. In neither case would a CBS journalist dare to produce a critical programme on workers’ conditions, say at the work place of Westinghouse, even if was known that conditions did not satisfy ILO norms. Similarly, it is difficult to imagine journalists at NBC presenting a critical review of the military industry, since that company is owned 80 % by General Electric (known for manufacturing weapons) and 20 % by the French Company Vivendi, mainly involved in the entertainment industry.
The Three Big Ones
Most entertainment and news reach the households of the planet Earth through outlets controlled by less than a handful of trans-national companies. The three largest media companies in terms of annual revenues are Time Warner, Disney and News Corporation, which are all with headquarters in the USA. What they do not cover is picked up by other media companies owned by for instance Vivendi, Sony (owner of Columbia and Tri-Star Pictures and major recording interests) Viacom, Seagram (owner of Universal film) and Liberty Media. All of these companies have a direct impact on the information to which the public has access. Moreover they control our minds and visions through the entertainment industry by way of films, music and the internet. Among the three largest media houses, the News Corporation is that global company which owns more radio stations, newspapers, and TV stations than any other company. With a view to illustrate the nature of news reaching the public, we will take a brief look at these three companies. We are particularly interested in knowing the extent to which these news leaders can be expected to present a true picture of the world in all of its nuances, including its injustices and inequalities.
Murdoch’s News Corporation.
A listing of TV stations, radio stations, news papers and companies owned by News Corporations take up more than two pages of its 2006 Annual Report. This TNC is headed by K. Rupert Murdoch, who is both Chairman and CEO. Perhaps the two most popular TV stations under his ownership are Sky Television, and Fox Network. NC is the owner of Twentieth Century Fox, and the book publishing company Harper Collins. Mr. Murdoch’s Board of Directors includes the former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Aznar, who is the President of the Board of Directors, on which also sits directors from JPMorgan Chase Bank, the Rotchield Investment Trust Capital and the Chartwell Education Group (headed by a former Secretary to the department of education in the G.W.Bush government).
Murdoch has never tried to hide his conservative values. All of his 175 news papers worldwide advocated in favour of USA intervention in Iraq. His papers include The Times, The Sun and News of the World in the UK and in the USA he is the owner of the New York Post and the Weekly Standard. He gave wide and open support in his media to the Reagan campaign and to George W. Bush during his 2000 and 2004 campaigns. He also supported the evangelist Pat Robertson, when he was a presidential candidate.
Murdoch has an insatiable need to expand and build an even larger global media empire. Only in December 2007 did NC purchase the world’s largest spirititual website, Beliefnet. This will offer News Corporation an opportunity to expand its conservative faith-based businesses. Earlier in 2007 NC announced that it had purchased the Dow Jones & Company, including its affiliate the Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones is the world’s leader in financial information and business journalism. It provides news services to several networks, including its affiliates, CNBS, and MSNBC. The purchase makes him probably the most influential and powerful individual in the financial world, and with a 34 % share in Hughes Electronics, the largest Satellite TV system in the USA. NC is ready to expand its reach to all corners of the Planet. Until the purchase of the Wall Street Journal, none of the media owned by NC could be said to constitute a reference point for journalistic standards. Even Murdoch’s conservative friends look often with disdain on his tabloid papers and magazines. Although conservative, the Wall Street Journal is known for its serious and reliable journalism. In a brief analysis of Murdoch’s empire, the French Le Monde described him “… not as a man from the news media, but as a businessman and a politician. He is a global fighter, but only for those interests which he perceives to serve his own interests” .
Mr. Murdoch would like to see his Sky News and Fox News take over the leading global position of CNN, which is owned by Turner Broadcasting System, which again is part of the Time Warner Corporation. In terms of annual revenue this corporation is the largest media and entertainment business in the world. In 2006 it had annual revenue of $ 44 billion. Another source of news is marketed by Time Inc., which publish more than 130 magazines worldwide. As a business corporation TW does not explicitly talk about having a mission. Rather it refers to its values, which guide its operations. These values include putting the needs and interests of its customers at the center, while upholding editorial independence and artistic expression . Although TW does not have the same number of news media outlets as News Corporation, its global impact on forming public opinion is significant. The current president, Mr. Richard D. Parson, (2007) has worked closely with the Republican Party leadership, including the former mayor of New York City, Mr. Guiliani. Mr. Parson is a close friend of the Rockefeller family, especially David Rockefeller. The Board of Directors is associated with such companies as the Hilton Hotel Corporation, the German Axel Springer consortium, Altria Group (parent company of the Tobacco Company Philip Morris), Motorola, and Colgate Palmolive, Vincent Enterprises (supply technical and electronic services to aerospace and defense). The board composition shows clearly TW’s business orientation. Furthermore, the President, Mr. Parson, is on the board of Citigroup and Este Lauder.
Had it not been for the ever present CNN, no matter where one may be in the world in the world, the number two media and entertainment corporation in the world, Disney Corporation, would have overtaken TW in terms of number of TV and Radio stations, both within the USA as well as internationally in general. With a presence in 212 countries and, with a daily audience of 1 billion globally, CNN International remain the global news leader.
The Walt Disney Company
The impact of Disney is significant mainly through its movie industry. Most of its products target youth and persons less than 25 years of age. Disney has a significant influence on future generations. Disney comics and animations have a conservative orientation in the sense that they confirm good middle class values: It pays to work hard, save and invest. In 2006 Disney had a revenue of $ 34 billion. Disney’s media network is centered on its American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which has both cable and satellite outlets with international reach. In UK it provides inputs to ITV’s breakfast programmes and in Germany Disney owns 50 % of Super RTL. Through its sports channels, ESPN, the Disney Corporation serves an estimated 200 million TV homes around the world in 120 countries. In the USA alone it provides sports entertainment through 750 radio stations.
The Disney Corporation does not have a clear mission statement, except for providing high quality entertainment. It does, however, see itself having a global role with regard to “leverage economic and infrastructure growth around the world”. By helping to open markets, Disney hopes to get a share of the new markets in Asia. The President wrote to the shareholders in the Annual Report, 2006, that “In China and India….there are more than 800 million consumers under 21 years of age, which poses a remarkably opportunity for Disney entertainment………” Disney has been accused of human rights violations regarding the working conditions in factories that produce their merchandise. It is therefore eager to stress its current compliance with ILO core conventions.
Disney’s Board of Directors come from a variety of backgrounds, but mainly from the business sector, such as Este Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Boing Company, Cisco Systems, Apple and Sears Holding Corporations.
Partnering for free markets and more uncontrolled growth.
The examples above show the extent to which the media have become interrelated with the business community. It therefore becomes virtually impossible for the media to inform the public about how the large TNCs most of the times affect the lives negatively of the great majority of people. They constitute an integrated part of that same structure, which they should be monitoring and reporting upon to the public. Actually, the media will often actively tend to suppress the true nature and anti-people interests of the TNCs. Since the media have become businesses themselves, they depend on making money for their parent companies. Programmes depend on funding by the advertisers for products which cater to those with a purchasing power. Hence the media abandon the poor working people, and they abandon totally the people in third world countries.
In face of an uninformed public it is easy for any TNC to focus on that which is most tangible, i.e. economic growth and the interests of the shareholders. The key objective of the TNCs, i.e. creating economic growth opportunities through new markets, is facilitated by the Media houses. Rather than protecting the public from abuse and advocating the protection of human rights, the media houses have become accomplices in the global expansion of markets. The media protect the TNCs and the governments created by TNCs, against democratic movements and the objective interests of the peoples. With a large amount of disinformation by the media corporations, the public is ill equipped to play their democratic role at elections of decision makers.
Some observers, like the American Philosopher, Francis Fukuyama, have claimed that democratic capitalism that builds on the freedom ideology promoted by most western industrialized countries under the leadership of the USA is the explicit manifestation of the divine purpose of mankind. Some see this as the natural expression of man’s selfish nature. Institutions, which used to define limits for man’s uncontrollable behaviour in the interest of the community, have stopped interfering. There are geneticists which believe that modern humans, when left to them, will behave well . Perhaps there is a natural regulation of our behaviour, when we live in small communities, which will punish or reward us for behaviors serving the majority interest. But what happens, when the result of certain behaviour is not felt by the immediate community, but is only felt in communities in far away countries in the third world? Who sets the limits and who exercises punishment for behaviour which causes harm in far away countries? Through deregulation the state has become a powerless witness to the uncontrolled behaviour of the TNCs, whose first negative impact may be in the communities where they extract primary resources or exploit cheap labour. What would be the incentive for a population to punish a TNC, when the product (such as oil) benefits the consumers, although there may have been violations of human rights by a TNC in a remote third world country during the development process of a particular consumer product? What is the punishment when a community or state acts against a common global good? Which institution will help us to guarantee human rights and welfare for everybody, regardless of where they are being violated?
The institutions of the United Nations were actually established to guide member states to ensure a more equal and just world, thereby ensuring peace and stability for everybody. In the following we will take a look at what are the possibilities for the UN to assume its formal responsibilities in the area of promotion of development within the context of protection of human rights, which we consider a pre-condition for a development benefiting everybody equally.
Part IV. The United Nations in a freedom-driven world.
A decade of UN Summits.
As we have seen above, all of the good intentions expressed in the Declaration by the leaders of the world’s nations issued at the end of the Millennium Summit in year 2000 in New York came to mean very little in the context of the 9/11 event one year later. The world’s leaders had in fact given its consensus for the UN to take leadership towards achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015. But with another ‘consensus’, i.e. that of Monterrey in 2002, promotion of democracies through introduction of free markets became soon more important than the fight against poverty and reduction of child mortality, implemented through human rights programming. Assistance to poor countries to solve their social problems became contingent upon their willingness to open up markets to outside competitors and their capacity for ‘good governance’ - a euphemism for complying with norms imposed upon a sovereign country by mainly western donors and the international institutions.
With the Monterrey Consensus, the world has implicitly agreed to forget the outcome of all previous summits, which had taken place during the last almost 20 years. The first one took place in 1990 in New York with the World Summit for Children organized by UNICEF. The largest number of world leaders ever assembled participated at this first world summit for children. All participants were full of hope for a better future for everybody. Now that the Cold War was over, the world was ready to focus on its children and the next generations. The leaders present at this Summit for Children developed a declaration and plan of action to be implemented at the respective country levels. During the following years the UN’s Children’s Organization was busy providing leadership to countries to implement the recommendations of the Summit. The success of this first Global summit inspired new summits with a frequency of one and sometimes two per year over the next decade: The Earth Summit in Rio (1992), Population Summit in Cairo (1994), Development and participation of Women Summit in Beijing (1995), Social Development in Copenhagen (1995), and World Food Summit in Rome (1996). In between these summits a multitude of other global conferences took place, especially with focus on the battle against HIV/Aids, but also on many other development subjects. Each Summit gave birth to a number of follow up activities at global, regional and country levels. During the last two to three years of the millennium, it seemed as if a certain fatigue had crept in. There were no new Summits for next three years until the Millennium Summit in year 2000.
The USA versus the UN and the rest of the world.
The USA perceives with suspicion the multi-cultural composition of member states of the UN. It considered it a contradiction in terms, when a Libyan became the President of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. How could a rogue state such as Libya provide a quality candidate for the leadership of a UN Human Rights organization? The controversies that arose led eventually to the replacement of the Commission by the Human Rights Council (2006). On the other hand, nobody has so far queried the United States of America or voiced any criticism in the General Assembly on how it is possible to accept that a member country, which has not yet signed and ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child continues to designate the Executive Director to Unicef – the UN organization, which works for development of children and youth. The very base of the work of UNICEF is the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the USA is the only country in the world, except for Somalia, which has not ratified this convention.
Conflicts with the USA have cost the UN as an institution dearly and it is reasonable to assume that many dedicated staff has have had to leave the organization because of disagreement with their USA controlled superiors regarding the course of a given action. The UN has lost much opportunity to promote peace in many parts of the world, and not merely in the Middle East, when it did not serve the national and security interests of the USA. Boutros Boutros Ghali, the former SG to the UN is the highest ranking UN Civil Servant who was forced to take early retirement because of his outspoken disagreement with the host country to the UN HQs. In his memoires on his time as head of the UN, he observed that strategic diplomacy had become of less importance to the USA which has the military might to impose its will on the international community. When his successor Kofi Annan declared that the US initiated war with Iraq was illegal, the USA did everything possible to have him ousted. Although they did not succeed, it did succeed to slow down the work of the UN through demands for reforms and also through accusations of malpractice, including immoral behaviour by UN peace keeping forces. The UN spends a disproportionate amount of resources on reviews of its current practices and defense of presumed malpractices. In fact it has been unable to take leadership on key global issues, since its attention has been diverted to an agenda of lesser long term significance. It is increasingly caught in a vicious circle in which it can not take timely and proper action. The UN often finds itself unable to address the large issues, because it has to investigate and justify staff that by the media has been exposed on some personal accusation, which in fact may be totally irrelevant for the execution of their official functions. Conflicts between the UN and USA interests are as old as the UN institutions. During Edgar Allan Hoover’s anti-communist campaigns in the fifties, the UN Secretariat was accused of giving jobs to disloyal US citizens.
Squeezing the UN.
It would be incorrect to state that the UN with its specialized agencies, programmes and funds has not tried and that they do not continue trying to get the world’s largest superpower on board. The UN knows very well that without the support of the USA, it will have little success with its agenda. The UN does everything possible to appear attractive. It has borrowed marketing approaches from the private sector to maintain support and to attract new and more funding. They produce spots of suffering communities being rescued by the UN during earth quakes and other calamities. Tax payers can relax comfortable and feel good about their contributions to poor nations. In the poor countries in the South, the communities learn about the good intentions of the UN and its donors, through these same spots, often made available through kind courtesy of one of the global media corporations. The UN may still appear as a worthwhile institution. But in reality it serves increasingly as a convenient cover for the rich world in their continued exploitation of third world countries.
Regardless of all efforts made, the fact remains that the UN is always on the defensive. The importance of the United Nations is being diminished daily in a world of powerful TNCs through their IBFs and Think Tanks, dictating the agenda and the priorities to their respective national governments. The influence of the UN and its organizations depends on resources available. Nobody listens to an organization which has no teeth, and often unable to make even a small contribution to its own mission. The special agencies such as UNICEF depend increasingly on philanthropic contributions. The targets for contributions by each donor country to the UN set at 0.7% of the GNP and agreed upon by the general assembly is met by less than a handful of countries. The USA is among those countries which contribute the least as a percentage of its GNP. It is also the only country which withholds funding, unless the UN satisfies its demands. The USA which in fact because of the power it holds in the world exerts a tremendous influence in the UN on all member countries. This influence has become reinforced through bi-lateral arrangement, in the area of trade and finance and often mediated by the WB and IMF, acting in accordance with the principles of USA policies. The UN has difficulties implementing its mission, when the most powerful nation, the USA, is ready to go it alone, when it disagrees with the recommendations of the world community
The last decade provides us with several examples of the impotency of the international community in face of the selfishness of the USA. The USA has refused to agree to letting US citizens be judged by the International Court of Justice, and although the House of Representatives has decided to work for the promotion of Human Rights principles throughout the world, the USA is not ready to be judged by the international community, when it violates human rights. In the eyes of the general public the UN is loosing much of its previous prestige and recognition. It is increasingly being seen as tailing the USA and taking the lead from that country. At times it appears as if the demands on the UN for reform are put forward to slow the UN and make it totally ineffective. It is usually ignored that the UN has been under constant reform since it was established. A search at the UN library on the subject ‘UN Reform’ produces references to so many documents that a print out consumes 25 A4 pages. The requirements for reform in the UN, most strongly put forward by the Republicans in the House of Representatives, culminating with the so-called Hyde Bill (United Nations Reform Act of 2005), with emphasis on oversight, audit and control. Although it has not been made into law, it is nevertheless a bill which to a large extent expresses the sentiments of a large part of the population in the USA. The Hyde Bill recommended that unless a certain number of reform recommendations were adopted, the USA should cut its contributions with 50 %. This would in fact mean the end of the UN, as we know it today. With reference to the demand for reform of the UN and also with a hint to the USA to show more global team spirit former Prime Minister of UK, Tony Blair, said during his last visit to the USA as Prime Minister that “Powerful nations want more effective multilateral institutions – when they think those institutions will do their will. What they fear is effective multilateral institutions that do their own will” .
Survival for staff or for the UN as an institution?
All organizations are made up of individuals, whose welfare and security depend on job security provided by that work place. The UN is probably one of the most attractive employers worldwide. The great majority of UN staff is not ‘Nelson Mandelas’ with regard to discipline and persistence necessary for the achievement of the UN mission. Therefore there is quite a big willingness on the side of UN staff to accommodate to demands made by the big donors. It has never been recorded that a UNICEF Executive Director publicly has mentioned that the USA is the only country in the world not to have ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Furthermore, the US National Committee to UNICEF does not react to violations by the US Government, nor violations committed by the TNCs based in the USA. By comparison, European national Unicef Committees often go to the media, when a government or other institutions do not satisfy the Convention of the Rights of Child
The UN attracts a large number of individuals who are looking for job security in a well paid job with numerous fringe benefits. Dedication to world peace and establishment of an environment conducive to development often comes in second position or not at all. Among those staff who took up a position with the UN with the intention to contribute to its mission, a large number have over the last decade become extremely disillusioned. However, in recognition of their limited influence in terms of addressing the root causes of obstacles to peace and development, most staff of the United Nations, at all levels seem today more interested in staying on for the sake of job security and remunerations in form of post adjustment, pension rights, education grants, and paid home leave. At the individual level it is too risky to voice any disagreement with an institution which for many employees is perceived simply as serving the interests of those who have, rather than serving those who have nothing. The UN is more and more seen as engaged in window dressing and patch working, covering up the exploitation by the richer countries of the poor. While the theft by the TNCs of the poorer, but often mineral rich countries, especially in Africa, continues, the UN offers free vaccination campaigns – under full media coverage - paid for by rich UN member countries, philanthropic organizations, i.e. Lions or Rotary, or by one of the big business corporations. It is still good for business to be seen doing something for the poor, even when it is with the UN.
UN – sells out?
The only way for the UN and its agencies to survive have been to adopt the values and actions held dear to the representatives of the western industrialized countries and especially the USA government. Survival for the UN during the nineties and henceforth has meant to abstain from any conflict with these countries and especially with the one and only superpower. With particular encouragement from the US Government, the UN convened the Conference on Financing for Development, which led to the Monterrey Consensus. The Consensus was followed by several other milestone events, such as the Global Development Alliance and the Millennium Challenge Account, both of which is US owned and stress partnerships between the public and the private sector. The Monterrey Consensus was the result of the works of the IBFs and the Think Tanks. The UN is still struggling to identify strategies to adopt to cope with the new development agenda. It is therefore also difficult to conclude what are the implications for the UN, when it has to lead the world’s nations towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Who are the ‘new’ players for the Funds and Specialized Agencies of the UN and how can they exploit these initiatives under the new scenario? Who are the new partners and how to incorporate them in the human rights objectives of the UN, which has adopted a Human Rights approach to programming in almost all of its funds and specialized agencies? Are the missions of the UN compatible with economic growth objectives in the context of policies currently being led by WTO on behalf of mainly industrialized countries of the West?
The TNCs have so far been mostly attracted to the international organizations, when they needed their support to advance business for the sake of their shareholders. Collaboration has therefore mostly been with the Bretton Woods institutions and since 1995 with the WTO. When a third world government is not readily disposed to accommodate the needs of the TNCs as expediently as they may want, the international organizations are increasingly showing their willingness to provide the additional push necessary to ensure that democracy; ‘good governance’ and economic freedom are defined and practiced in a manner serving donor countries to the UN and the interest of the TNCs. Given the Millennium Development Summit in 2000 and the Monterrey Consensus in 2002, how will the United Nations, and in particular its Programmes and Funds, i.e. UNICEF, UNDP, WFP, and UNIFEM; and the specialized agencies, i.e. UNESCO and WHO, respond to the continued demands by the TNCs for more economic growth with only lip service being paid to principles of fairness, justice and equality, especially concerning distribution of created economic growth?
Nobody knows yet the answers. The TNCs have not made significant changes in their modus operandi. As we shall see below, a number of initiatives may eventually lead to new ways of cooperation between the TNCs and the countries, where they operate, but for now it is business as usual. Partnerships with the UN institutions and human rights based NGOs serve at this stage mainly cosmetic purposes which may help to promote their own narrow profit driven agenda. A concept which has its origin in the 1970’ies is that of Corporate Social Responsibility, which in the late 1990’ies was re-packaged by the UN as the Global Compact (GC). There was no attempt to make operational the concept of CSR, or of the GC. Between year 2000 and 2006 the ‘new’ development partners made their presence visible to the specialized agencies, programmes and funds. Besides the old Bretton Woods partners (WB, IMF), UNCTAD and the World Trade Organization, the new ones include the United Nations Financing for Development; the World Economic Forum, the Doha Rounds; and the UN Global Compact.
We will not pretend that we understand the relations between and among the new and old development partners. Since 2002 new relations begin to crystallize in some formalized structures. In the remaining part of this essay, we aim at identifying some of the salient characteristics of those development players. This will help us to raise some key questions and perhaps some scenarios for the future.
In search for a just development.
In a recent commentary to the upcoming presidential elections, Gary Younge wrote “Money buys access, access begets influence” . It is as close to a textbook definition of corruption as you can get – but it is still legal. He then quotes Jimmy Carter’s former Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brezezinski who said “We have created a culture in which there’s no distinction between what is legal and what is unethical”. The United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey in March 2002 was also an attempt to address the unethical and unfair impacts of globalization, the benefits of which - as stated in the Millennium Declaration – are very unevenly distributed. In a sense, at least one of the Consensus points was a big step forward. It is stated in the final declaration from this conference that the international community must strive at improving the coherence of global and regional financial structures and promoting fair representation of developing countries in global decision making. The World Council of Churches expressed its disappointment, when observing that nobody made an attempt to put the conference in the context of fairness and justice for the people of the world. “We only hear of the articulation of policies which enable TNCs to take centre stage. ……We oppose the philosophy that poverty eradication is best addressed through greater markets managed by TNCs or international financial institutions”, said WCC’s spokes person on economic issues .
But this is exactly what is happening. The Monterrey Consensus provided the axe which cut off the marginalized countries from those who are charged to ensure their voice in front of the most powerful countries and institutions. The UN and its specialized agencies and funds, including UNCTAD which has a special role to assist the developing countries in trade negotiations, have in fact been weakened as a result of the Consensus, in spite of all the rhetoric to the contrary. The trend has been set. The private sector with all of its resources with full support by the WTO, WB, IMF and most of the biggest western donors see with the Consensus of Monterrey good reasons to continue business as usual, but in a much more structured and forceful way and with a stronger emphasis on the private sector. Moreover, the Consensus gives justification to apply development aid as a means to punish and reward countries, depending on how well they meet expectations of the free market advocates. This view was stressed by IMF in its closing remarks at the conference: “I am encouraged that there is an unprecedented degree of agreement about what is required to overcome world poverty. The Monterrey Consensus defines the right priorities. ….It also recognizes that when poor countries are ready to live up to these responsibilities, the international community should provide faster, stronger, and more comprehensive support”. IMF’s spokes person continued that “Trade is the most important avenue for self-help. …….We must work ambitiously to open markets….”
It was certainly not the some conclusion arrived at by the alternative conference which preceded the official UN conference in Monterrey. More than 2600 persons representing 700 NGOs from all over the world convened in a ‘NGO Global Forum on Financing the Right to Equitable and Sustainable Development’. This alternative conference was seeking an economy governed by human rights and environmental protections. They concluded that the “full enjoyment of human rights should be the objective of a new economic model for sustainable development with equity, equality and justice. Human rights, as they are included in the Human Rights Instruments of the UN and the ILO, should be the overarching framework of these institutions. The World Bank, the IMF, the WTO and national and TNCs should be accountable to the UN Commission of Human Rights”
The manner in which a follow up report to the Monterrey Consensus was presented illustrates clearly the influence of the new power brokers and is an indication of what we are going to see more of in the future. The Report was entitled “Expanding the Role of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in Mobilizing Resources for Health, Education and Water in Poor regions”. It was the outcome of a United Nations High level Plenary Meeting on Financing for Development. The report concludes that “The challenges to the successful implementation and scaling up of PPPs are still significant. If progress is achieved in meeting these challenges, PPPs may come to play a major role in extending the reach and effectiveness of development efforts.” What is interesting and significant is that it is the World Economic Forum which published this report and carries its logo most visibly on the front cover. A UN institution normally does not accept that a private organization shall appear more prominent on joint publications, even when it carries the costs. The United Nations Financing for Development had been established to ensure sustained UN Secretariat support within the UN to the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus. Who shall provide leadership and policy direction for the PPPs? Who shall decide upon the priorities in a given country and region? Should it be the WTO, which is the only international organization that according to its laws can discipline and enforce decisions taken, if they are broken by a particular country? Or shall it be the World Economic Forum, who in any case will be powerful enough to dictate the WTO?
World Economic Forum – the emergency of a new world government?
The World Economic Forum has become probably the most influential international private institution in the world by the mere fact of the financial resources available by its individual members and by those corporations, which participate in its annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland. Of the top 100 companies identified by the Financial Times, Fortune and Forbes, 74 will be presented at its 2008 meeting. More than 1.370 executives at the level of CEO or chairman will also participate. The seven co-chairs at the 2008 Annual Meeting include Tony Blair, Former PM of the UK, Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State of the Government of the USA, the Chairman and CEO of Pepsi Company, USA, the Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation, USA. The Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan, Chase and Co., USA, and one co-chair from an Indian Bank and the CEO of China Mobile Communications Corporations. It is obvious that western corporations dominate. This dominance is also expressed in the presence of more than 1000 business leaders, including CEOs from the following TNCs: Petrobras (Brazil), Goldman Sachs (USA), Anglo American (UK), Coca Cola (USA), News Corporation (USA), Microsoft (USA), Nestle (Switzerland), Cisco (USA), Nissan (Japan),Sony (Japan), ArcelorMittal (India), SaudiAramco (Saudi Arabia), and the Carlyle Group (USA), just to mention some of the more ‘popular’ corporations. Presidents, head of Governments and ministers are also strongly represented at annual meetings. At the meeting in 2008 they include either president, head of state or one or more ministers from the following countries: France, UK, Singapore, Nigeria, Senegal, European Union (including seven EU Commissioners), and six cabinet members of the Government of the USA, Colombia, Jordan, Denmark, China, Brazil, and Russia. Heads of International Organizations include among others WTO, WHO, UNICEF, WB, and IFC. A number of heads of NGOs are also present at such meetings. In 2008 they included Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and Oxfam. The sheer number of representatives from the TNCs almost guarantees that recommendations and follow up from the WEF meetings will be in the priority interest of the business community.
While the UN continues to search for a meaningful role in the follow up efforts to the Monterrey Consensus, the World Trade Organization continues also to push for the total globalization of free markets. This is being done under the aegis of the Doha Development Agenda or Doha Rounds. They seek to define by consensus the future trade agreements with the aim of making globalization more effective and inclusive for the worlds poor. It is a noble objective, but the negotiations came to a total halt in 2006, when the WTO Secretary General had to suspend further negotiations for the time being, since no common foundation could be found among US, EU and developing countries, with some new emerging powers, including particularly India, China, and Brazil. Obviously WTO had looked forward to the success of the Doha Rounds, as had IMF and the WB. A professor of political economy of the London School of Economics expressed the hope that the Doha trade talks may fail, if the world’s poor is to be saved. If they succeed they will push many developing countries towards de-industrialization The Doha Trade Talks did indeed fail, but they are likely to be resumed in 2008. In the meantime, the USA, Australia and the E.U. continue to make their bilateral free trade agreements with individual countries, one by one. The failure of the Doha trade talks does not mean that the developing countries were saved, only that they gained a little time. The suspension of the Doha Trade Talks gave the developing countries a bit more time to develop new strategies. The ‘failed’ Doha Trade Talks seemed to have encouraged African countries, which expressed a clear ‘NO’ to the European Union’s attempt to define new terms for Africa and the Pacific countries in late 2007.
None of the key documents from any of these powerful institutions such as the WTO and the declaration emerging from the Doha rounds make any significant reference to human rights. Therefore, we will now focus specifically on the position and future of human rights in the context of the explicit new role of the TNCs in the future development work, which emerges from public-private partnerships.
Part V.Towards a Human Rights based Market Economy.
Two levels of Human Rights.
Proving the negative impact of free trade policies on human rights is somehow like proving the adverse results of industrial production practices on global warming. Those who benefit will deny the impact of their behaviour and resort to all kinds of explanations and justifications to continue what they do, since it brings some immediate benefits for themselves. There are plenty of intelligent people who will claim that every person is responsible for his own destiny. They consider their own good fortune as the result of hard work and intelligence. It is not unusual to meet people in the USA, who claim that homeless persons have chosen this as a way of life. Similarly, those countries that live in abject poverty choose to stay that way, because of the leaders they have chosen. It is difficult for those same people to accept that the welfare they enjoy and the misery we observe in a large part of the developing world to a large extent is caused by the policies imposed by the governments of the industrialized West upon the entire world.
In the following we will distinguish between two aspects of human rights. The first set of human rights is fundamental, but often ignored by human rights advocates. It is those rights which will ensure survival and growth of the individual. Those rights assume that the state has put in place protection measures, including appropriate legislation, which will support and facilitate survival and development of all of its citizens, but particularly children, youth and women. This type of rights refer to the opportunity to have adequate food, proper education facilities from kindergarten until tertiary level - preventing youth from having to leave their country to go to university -, adequate access to health facilities and so forth. Absence to realize these rights are most often the result of poverty, which again to a large extent is caused by the prevailing global trade policies. More than 25 000 people, most of them children die daily as a result of absence of the right to survive and grow.
The second set of human rights is those which will protect the individual from suffering bodily harm, abuse, enslavement, imprisonment without due process and other types of rights, more specifically pointed than those referred to under the first set of rights. Those second set of rights relate often to the comfort of the individual although they obviously also can infringe on the individual’s possibility to grow and develop his/her potential capacity. A child, who is abused sexually or work wise by keeping it in a kind of slavery, will have difficulties to profit from educational opportunities, even if the State and other institutions have made available affordable or free basic education for all. For the sake of distinction from the first kind of rights, we will refer to this second type as ‘comfort rights’. This second type of human rights receive priority attention by most human right advocates, perhaps because violations are more visible, ‘easier’ and less controversial to address than the first kind.
The Right to survive and grow.
These first set of human rights are so fundamental that they will determine if we shall survive and secondly, if we shall have opportunities to grow and develop into mature human beings. Let us assume that the realization of human rights principles is a precondition for not only staying alive, but also for realizing one’s human potential on equal terms with everybody else in the world. It is unfair and unjust that some children in certain parts of the world should be given less opportunities to develop their human potential than children who happen to be born in Europe or North America. Most people would agree that it is not fair and just, when a child born in an average sub- Saharan African country has a much greater risk of dying before his/her five year birthday, than a child born elsewhere. It is also accepted by an increasing number of observers that the chances of surviving and thus realizing your human rights, including rights to education, to good health and to work to a large extent depend on achieving a certain level of minimum economic growth, the way such growth is distributed among the people and the capacity of the people to participate in decisions which affect their lives.
The UNCTAD Secretary –General, in a joint press release from August, 2007, with WTO, made a point which somehow summarizes the key issue on Globalization. He said that “Although globalization and liberalization had been providing positive results for some parts of the world and some parts of the population, the results had not always been equal….”, and he added that there is “ a need to make globalization inclusive, to put a human face on world economic growth”. None of those most directly responsible for the continuation of the ‘failed’ Doha rounds (July 2006) have made explicit the presumed causal links between trade policies and the possibilities for poor developing countries to escape poverty and enjoy the right to survive and grow.
The thinking of the USA seems to be that all which matters is to ensure that all nations and all individuals be given maximum freedom. However, it is regrettable that the concept of freedom as defined by the USA does not mean freedom from diseases, or freedom from poverty. It is freedom in the context of being free to take initiative and freedom to market and sell your products, especially if they are American products. It does not necessarily mean freedom for third world countries to market their agricultural products, such as cotton. The American definition of freedom in a third world context means free to buy western products. Unfortunately for the great majority of the world’s population, that definition is shared by WTO, which is the most powerful legislative and judicial body in the world. By promoting the “free trade” agenda of multinational corporations above the interests of local communities, working families, and the environment, the WTO has systematically undermined democracy around the world. It is to a great extent because of the WTO that millions of African cotton producers are being held hostage by 25 000 North Americans, who receive governmental subsidies by the USA Government . Given the power of the WTO, it is at the time of writing this essay almost sure that the failed Doha negotiations will be resumed. There is no positive end in sight for the world’s poor families. Free trade policies will be advanced at any cost. The advancement of free trade policies must continue because they are seen by the TNCs and the organizations, which they support and finance as necessary “to unlock the economic potential of developing countries”, said the Deputy Director-General of the WTO in August 2007. The Deputy added that the development of trade, as defined by WTO, is “an engine to accelerate growth and achieve some of the promises of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations”. She added:” If Doha were to Die, it would be a blow to the poor”.
The UN appears to have become absorbed with that trend of Globalization which stresses emphasis on freedom and free trade policies as the ultimate manifestation of Human Rights. Therefore there is little hope for changes to be pushed by the UN. This would also be unthinkable, since the UN is after all financed by the same countries, which most strongly promotes free market policies. And there would be no fundamental change and possibility of advancing Human Rights without a fundamental shift in foreign and trade policies by the USA and its allies. This is not likely anytime soon.
However, for those individuals and for many NGOs promoting and advocating sustainable human rights, help may be coming from an unexpected side. The neo-liberal policies promoted by the Western industrialized countries will eventually put them on collision course not just with the developing countries, but with the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) created in 2001. The head of states declared on the occasion of the five year anniversary of this organization that “…the United Nations, being the universal and the most representative authoritative international organization, is entrusted with primary responsibility in international affairs and is at the core of formulating and implementing the basic norms of international law”. At present there is no common global voice, talking on behalf of the welfare of the third world countries. With a view to reinstall the UN in its proper and intended role, we believe that it would be in the interest of global peace and stability, if Human Rights advocates explore how they can enter into strategic collaborative projects with SCO with a view that developing countries under the umbrella of a born-again UN can make their voice heard and respected on equal terms with powerful industrialized western countries.
Comfort Rights: The Right to enjoy life and not to suffer too much.
Our argument is that an economic model must aim at full enjoyment of human rights and ensure sustainable development with equity, equality and justice, thus including economic, social and cultural rights. In fact sustainable and just development presupposes that the citizens enjoy fundamental human rights ensured by law. However, as we have seen above there is very little which suggest that we are heading that way within a foreseeable future. The question is therefore what can be done and what is being done in the short term? Secondly, what can be done to put in place a new model, which will prevent thousands of people to be killed daily as a result of prevailing trade and foreign policies?
Given the fact that one does not change foreign policy or trade policies overnight, the UN seems to have taken the approach to leave the complex situation to the experts and in the meantime try to persuade multinationals to help workers improve their lives and little by little induce the transnationals to adopt policies that work for all levels of society. This perception lets the UN benefits from the doubt.
In an effort to respond to the most fundamental principles of its mission, i. e. those embedded in The Universal Human Rights Declaration, the UN has embarked on two kinds of initiatives, both of which largely ignore the Development Declaration of 1986 to which nobody seems committed. Countries are no longer given an opportunity to choose a path of development which is in accordance with their national priorities and objectives, as prescribed by the Declaration. The UN has bought the idea that there is no alternative to the kind of Globalization practiced by the multinationals. The first set of initiatives taken up by the UN can at best be described as ‘patch work initiatives’. They aim at preventing outright violations of human rights. Among these initiatives belongs the UN Global Compact. In the same category of human rights activities belong initiatives which aim at combating cross-border child and women trafficking. Typically of this kind of human rights activities is that they do not address fundamental causes. The second set of initiatives attempts to go winder and more in depth. They aim at defining the human rights obligations of the TNCs. Key among these initiatives was the establishment in 2005 of a post of Special Representative to the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and TNCs and other business enterprises. The first Special Representative is an American.
UN Global Compact and Corporate Social Responsibility.
The UN Global Compact was launched by the UN Secretary General at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in 1999. It was presented as an opportunity for the TNCs to do business with a human face. In fact, the Global Compact is the UN’s attempt to take control of an initiative already introduced by the business world itself with some initial attempts as early as the 1970’ies, but not really given serious attention until the hanging Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. Big business had often been criticized for not doing enough for the communities in which they worked, but merely extracting raw materials, first of all for the benefit of the industrialized countries in the West. Another type of corporations, such as Nestle, actively marketed products which had been proven fatal for the consumers. A demand was made by the shareholders to show more social responsibility and the term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was born. It basically sets norms for labour, environment and human rights. Most, if not all, TNCs exhibit development showcases in the communities in which they work or near their headquarters. Such showcases are meant to provide corporate staff, their families and especially the shareholders with a clean conscience, when international norms in the three areas of labour, environment and human rights are adhered to in a visible manner. CSR has become good for business. It often becomes part of the branding of a company.
The example taken from Exxon Mobil and presented in the preamble, raise the question on where responsibilities of corporations begin and end. The UN Global Compact formally established in year 2000 attempts to advance the process of making the Corporations active in the area of promotion of human rights by introducing baseline corporate codes of conduct. Ten principles related to Human Rights were introduced covering Human Rights, Labour Standards, Environment, and Anti-Corruption. While Global Compact makes good sense for the UN to get into regular dialogue with corporate business, it seems only to be a way of avoiding the worst impacts of globalization, especially because there are no way for the UN to enforce that norms are being followed, except by exposing violators. Six UN Agencies are at the core of the Global Compact Office. At the apex of the core agencies is the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Other members include ILO, UNDP and UNEP. The Global Compact Office is advised by a board composed of members drawn from business, civil society, labour and the UN. The business representatives make up about half of the board members and represent such corporations as Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Tata Steel, Lego, and Fuji Xerox. But the Global Compact remains a purely voluntary initiative with mainly advocacy functions related to mainstreaming the ten principles in businesses around the world, and to catalyze actions in support of broader UN Goals, such as the MDGs . Several NGOs, including Amnesty International want to expand the obligations of the corporations and make norms and standards mandatory and enforceable. In the meantime several organizations offer courses for corporations on how to make operational the ten principles of the global compact. Amnesty International began a series of human rights seminars in London in 2005 on the subject of Understanding Corporate Complicity. A key issue raised at these seminars is the question of responsibility of the corporations, since the law defines the state as the primary responsible for ensuring respect for and promotion of human rights. But what happens, when the company itself does not commit an abuse, but benefits from an abuse committed by a government or armed group? Or when the company funds those who commit the abuse; or when the company remains silent about the abuse? Many corporations do not commit themselves more to CSR and to the ten Global Compact principles than what is absolutely necessary to satisfy public opinion. Many TNCs do not wish to take direction from any international organization with regard to being monitored in terms of meeting standards. Many of the largest USA based TNCs, including for instance Exxon Mobil and Bechtel, have not signed up to the Global Compact, but have created their own definitions of what constitute CSR.
The time may, however, soon be up, when corporations will have to compare their own sets of standards with those defined by the international community. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is presently working on the development of an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility. Under the leadership of the Standard Institutes of Sweden and Brazil, ISO will publish the Social Responsibility standards in 2010. However, as we have seen before during our review in this essay, ISO aims to encourage voluntary commitment to social responsibility. ISO’s objective is to develop common guidance on concepts, definitions and methods of evaluation. The initiative of ISO is a very positive step forward, which - if made use of in a stringent manner with strong follow up by NGOs and civil society, as far as the evaluations of companies are concerned - could become an important tool to ensure adherence to human rights principles.
The CSR initiatives taken by some of the TNCs, the Global Compact initiative of the UN and that of ISO still leave many questions unanswered. With all the power and influence of the TNCs what then is the responsibilities of corporations with regard to advancing human rights principles? What should and can a TNC do with regard to facilitate – if not ensure - that corporate investments benefit all levels of society? How can the corporations help to ensure that government regulation alleviate environmental and social dislocation? These and other questions were to become the focus of the UN Special Representative established in 2005 for a two year period and subsequently extended for another one year.
UN Special Representative on Human Rights and TNCs.
“The OHCHR is the United Nations office with primary responsibility for promoting and protecting the enjoyment and full realization of human rights for all...” This is the information which meets the reader of the welcome page of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is the highest international office to promote human right principles and instruments protected by international laws. The UN Commission on Human Rights (replaced by the Human Rights Council in 2006) requested the Secretary General in 2005 to appoint a Special Representative on business and human rights with a mandate which include the following: “to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability for TNCs and other business enterprises with regard to human rights; to elaborate on the role of States in effectively regulating and adjudicating the role of TNCs; to research and clarify the implications for TNCs and other business enterprises of concepts such as ‘complicity’ and ‘sphere of influence’; to develop materials and methodologies for undertaking human rights impact assessments of the activities of TNCs and other business enterprises; and to compile a compendium of best practices of States and TNCs and other business enterprises…. The Special Representative has now worked on his mandate for almost three years and delivered to the Human Rights Council the outcome of the activities following the above mandate in a report in early 2007
The Special Representative has made significant advances, although most of the recommendations are yet to be carried out in ways which will benefit the populations concerned in terms of positive results regarding protection of their human rights. But it is a good start that companies are beginning to dialogue with the Special Representative. An important partner could become The International Financial Corporation (IFC) which is part of the World Bank Group. It has indicated its readiness to join hands with the UN’s Special Representative to determine the impact of investment agreements in developing countries. This may eventually lead to clearer definitions with regard to obligations and rights for states and TNCs to protect citizens. In absence of the UN to enforce norms, the protection of citizens from abuse depends still largely on the voluntary efforts of TNCs themselves. The IFC has taken a significant step forward by preparing guidelines for categorization of projects according to criteria to determine their feasibility and sustainability taking into consideration adverse social and environmental impacts that are diverse, irreversible or unprecedented. The International Financial Corporation has prepared an Illustrative list of potential social and environmental issues to be addressed in the Social and Environmental Assessment documentation.
A group of banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America, ABN AMRO, Barclays and JPMorgan have further build upon the IFC guidelines and developed what is being referred to as the Equator Principles , which were launched in June 2003. Over 50 financial institutions have adopted the Equator Principles, which have become the de facto standards and norms for banks and investors on how to assess major development projects around the world. These principles aim at ensuring that projects financed by the banks concerned are developed in a manner that is socially responsible and reflect sound environmental management practices. By doing so, negative impacts on project-affected ecosystems and communities should be avoided where possible, and if these impacts are unavoidable, they should be reduced, mitigated and/or compensated for appropriately. In July 2006, the Equator Principles were revised, increasing their scope and strengthening their processes. A key requirement of he EP is that all project financing must be preceded by environmental and social risk assessment and show that they meet national and international standards. These assessments must among other things document the impacts on indigenous peoples and communities to ensure their rights during project implementation
The weakness of these principles, as with most of the recommendations emerging as a result of the work of the UN, whether it is the Global Compact or the work of the Special Representative, is that they are voluntary and not enforceable. Both the IFC guidelines as well as the EP have been met with serious criticisms including lack of enforcement and accountability. However, they constitute a beginning and it is noteworthy that more than 80 % of private development lending has signed on to the Equator Principles. Together with IFC’s lending guidelines they constitute a sound input to build a larger code of conduct for TNCs. Meanwhile, the International Organization for Standardization is also paying close attention to the IFC guidelines as it continues refining its standards for corporate social responsibility.
Shortcomings of current efforts.
It is important to notice that it is the International Financial Corporation of the World Bank Group, which leads the ideas and recommendations put forward to the Human Rights Council by the Special Representative to the Secretary General on Human Rights and TNCs and other Business Enterprises. The IFC is obviously much closer to the interests of the banks and the private sector given its mandate and its tradition for working with and preparing the road for the TNCs. One should not assume that the Special Representative would have the power to make fundamental changes in the basic approach taken by those corporations and institutions which base their enterprises on free market policies, which again are dictated by the foreign policies of the western industrialized countries, especially that of the USA. The Special Representative functions upon the paradigm of a market place dictated by the freedom ideology defined in favour of big business.
The efforts made by the UN to ensure that the social, environmental and human rights elements are taken into consideration before a project is launched in a developing country serve particularly to ensure that the investments made will not be wasted by the private sector and the TNCs. This point is actually underlined strongly in the introduction to the report on Business and Human Rights (Feb. 2007), prepared by the UN Special Representative. Some key preconditions for success in the ‘market’ are often overlooked, it is stated. These include ‘curtailing individual and social harms imposed by markets. History demonstrates that without adequate institutional underpinnings, markets will fail to deliver their full benefits and may even become socially unsustainable’. In this sense the current efforts by the UN and some of the international financial institutions and banks are in principle not far from the intentions which motivate many of the TNCs for being involved in Corporate Social Responsibility projects and for adding a page or two in their respective annual reports on their integration of human rights principles in project preparation and execution. Bechtel states on its webpage that “At Bechtel we know that people denied the opportunity to work with a project will often work against it” In short the efforts being made by the UN and some of the TNCs do not get to the core of human rights concerns, i.e. to ensure the right to live. As long as this is the case, the daily silent terror will continue to kill about 25 000 people.
A non-governmental initiative, which deserves attention, is that of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. It was initially established as a Website in the year of 2000. Since 2002 it has operated out of offices in the USA, Europe and South Africa. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has become the world’s leading independent resource on the subject. Its website is updated hourly with news and reports about human rights impacts – positive and negative - of companies worldwide. The site covers over 3600 companies in more than 180 countries. It receives over 1.5 million hits per month. Topics include discrimination, environment, poverty & development, labour, access to medicines, health & safety, security, trade. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre encourages companies to respect human rights, avoid harm to people and communities by exposing negative, but also positive, effects of the impact of TNCs and other businesses.
Part VI. Future perspectives and challenges – some recommendations.
Making Human Rights principles a reality.
We have in this essay stressed two kinds of human rights principles. The first set which aim at securing the survival of the individual will not in the short term be fundamentally affected by the ongoing work, neither that of the UN, the Financial Institutions and nor that of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. However, it is the right to survive, which is the most fundamental and therefore most important. What does it matter, if one enjoys protection at the workplace, if there are only small chances of surviving during the initial five years of a child’s life or if you have to die from hunger or preventable diseases later in life? We will continue to observe the avoidable death of approximately 25 000 individuals daily as a result of unequal income distribution, poor institutional support to the most marginalized individuals in many countries with poor and inadequate government regulations, which could have protected its citizens from the negative and fatal impact of free market policies promoted by the foreign policy of the USA and many of its allies, including the EU, with the complicity of the UN and many other international institutions.
In fact very few of the international institutions question the underlying paradigm of the current market policies and their negative impact on the lives of the great majority of the population of the planet. Most of them including a great number of the NGOs which have made human rights their mandate seem satisfied to patch up the more severe results of globalization.
Who will break the silence and the complicity? It is unlikely that the UN will question the status quo, which obviously makes the UN an accomplice. A popular and often heard advice to UN staff is that one ‘should not rock the boat’. The NGOs with a Human Rights orientation, including some of the large ones, such as Amnesty International all have a need to survive. This is simply their nature; since they provide employment and status to individuals whose lives at the family level depend on financial security. A large percentage of the funding to NGOs with a HR Mission is likely to come from the UN and from bi-lateral countries, such as the USA.
Which kind of strategy should then be pursued with the objective that the 25 000 individuals who die daily can have a normal life expectancy and at least live long enough to realize their human rights? We believe that groups of civil society and those few NGOs, which dare to risk their own existence, need to engage in much more radical and active interaction with the UN and the larger NGOs that often have become non-distinct from the public institutions, which they pretend to change.
Human rights based economy – people driven and NGO guided.
The NGOs, Civil Society groups and non-organized individuals, who wish to address the institutionalized global injustice being promoted by the TNCs with complicity of most of the international institutions, have in fact already an implicitly approved and recognized action agenda in a number of areas identified in this essay. This will provide NGOs with entry points for further action. Initially, a minimum of four initiatives must be taken to address the much ignored Right to Survive:
Firstly, one of the mandates of the UN Special Representative is to elaborate on the role of states in effectively regulating and adjudicating the role of TNCs and other business enterprises with regard to human rights, including through international cooperation. As we have seen above in this essay, the Special Representative is undertaking his assignment within the freedom paradigm of the TNCs and their government supporters, especially that of the USA. It is therefore unlikely that the UN’s Special Representative is going to address the plight of those 25 000 unfortunate individuals who die daily as a result of institutionalized exploitation and neglect. It must be noted that the thousands of victims as a result of armed conflicts, especially in Africa, are not included in the 25 000 daily fatalities. NGOs and individuals known to speak out against injustices must make it their priority to communicate in any form with the Special Representative on the impact of foreign and trade policies on the survival chances of people in general in poor countries and of infants, children and their mothers in particularly. The objective of this first initiative must be to ensure that states recognize their obligation to set rules and regulations which regulate and avoid the negative impact of the behaviour of TNCs.
Secondly, with a view to fight inequality and injustice, the UN Compact’s principle no. 10: ‘Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery’ provide an excellent starting point for bringing out into the open the more murky interactions between Big Business and their government sponsors in industrialized countries which wish to invest in developing countries
Thirdly, the work presently ongoing at the ISO on the development of Social Responsibility Standards provides NGOs and civil society groups with an opportunity to advocate for standards and norms which when launched will provide for more profound follow-up that could result in structural changes.
The fourth and last point could have wider and more profound changes. The case in point is the Declaration on the Right to Development , adopted back in 1986. In one of the opening paragraphs, this Declaration states that ‘under the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration can be fully realized’. The Declaration on the Right to Development recognize ‘that development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom’. Perhaps most importantly, the Declaration stresses ‘the rights of peoples to self-determination, by virtue of which they have the right freely to determine their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development’. This right is daily being neglected, especially by the mightiest power in the world, that of the USA, which continue to define for all of us, what it considers to serve the best of the interests of the world.
The Development Declaration could be a powerful instrument in the hands of those NGOs and individuals who seriously aim at contributing to combating the injustices created by the current globalization of free market policies.
Kl/Sunday, February 28. 2008