Corporate Capture of Global Governance: WEF-UN Partnership Threatens UN System

Deeply concerned about corporate capture of the UN system, 289 organizations from all regions of the world, as well as 27 individuals, have endorsed a collective letter to the United Nations Secretary General, H.E. Mr. António Guterres, to terminate the strategic partnership agreement recently signed by the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.  This is a form of corporate capture, which will seriously undermine the mandate of the UN as well as the independence, impartiality and effectiveness of this multilateral body, particularly in relation to the protection and promotion of human rights.  The signatories instead call for “strengthening peoples’ sovereignty, deepening democratic multilateralism,” emphasizing the vital role of social movements and civil society organizations “in upholding human rights and environmental agreements and in the development of intergovernmental positions on a wide range of global crises over the past 75 years.”  This letter was also sent to the President of the UN General Assembly and the Chair of the Group of 77 requesting their support for termination of the agreement and in disseminating this letter to member States.

We are grateful for FIAN International , an ESCR-Net member, in initiating this action and bringing it to fellow members for input and endorsement.  We appreciate the members of the Corporate Capture Project Advisory Group for their input into the initial version of this letter and to the wider Corporate Accountability Working Group for reviewing this letter for collective endorsement by ESCR-Net.  Many individual members also endorsed this letter in their organizational capacity.

• The full letter and signatures can be found in EnglishSpanish and French.

Below is the official press release

Hundreds of Civil Society Organizations Worldwide Denounce World Economic Forum's Takeover of the UN

The call, made in an open letter, denounces attempts to ‘delegitimiz[ing] the United Nations and weaken(ing) the role of states in global decision-making

240 civil society organizations and 40 international networks--among them numerous ESCR-Net members--have called on the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to end the recently signed UN’s Strategic Partnership Agreement  with the World Economic Forum (WEF). The call, made in an open letter, condemned the agreement for "delegitimiz[ing] the United Nations and weaken(ing) the role of states in global decision-making."

Signed in June, the agreement promises to “accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” by deepening institutional coordination and collaboration between the UN and the WEF. Furthermore, the agreement grants transnational corporations preferential and deferential access to the UN System at the expense of States and public interest actors.

This “preferential access,” would undermine the mandate of the UN as well as its independence, impartiality, and effectiveness when holding businesses to account. “This agreement between the UN and WEF formalises a disturbing corporate capture of the UN. It moves the world dangerously towards a privatized and undemocratic global governance” said Gonzalo Berrón of Transnational Institute in presenting the letter.

Although corporate meddling is not unheard of in the UN system, under the new terms of the UN-WEF partnership, the UN will be permanently associated with transnational corporations.  In the long-term, this would allow corporate leaders to become ‘whisper advisors’ to the heads of UN system departments.

The UN system is already under a significant threat from the US Government and those who question a democratic multilateral world. Additionally, this ongoing corporatization will reduce public support for the UN system in the South and the North, leaving the system, as a whole, even more vulnerable.

To prevent a complete downfall, the UN must adopt effective mechanisms that prevent conflicts of interest consistently. Moreover, it should strengthen peoples and communities which are the real human rights holders, while at the same time build a stronger, independent, and democratic international governance system.

According to Sofia Monsalve, FIAN International Secretary-General “Any policy on this subject should bear in mind the different roles of private interest and of rights-holders that look after common goods and benefits.”

In this regard, all the organizations and movements endorsing the letter, pledge to continue fighting against the privatization of democracy in the world.

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