- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

Globalization. It's what brought a beefless McBurger to India and bilingual ATMs to the corner bank. Like it or not, private corporations are increasingly required to respond to international needs that bring vastly different cultures together through one technological medium or corporate venture. This progress has neither been easy nor uncontroversial, and though the World Trade Organization has been the focus of much of the debate, the world's countries could use another venue as well to discuss the impact of globalized trade. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he wants to adapt his organization to this reality at the Millennium Summit in New York this week.

Among the major topics on the agenda is his "global compact," a platform promoting business partnerships with the United Nations within an atmosphere that promotes protection of human rights, the environment and good labor practices. Of course, there is always the danger that the general secretary could develop partnerships with corrupt business leaders taking advantage of developing nations. Third World countries have a right to be concerned. However, the United Nations is allowing small developing countries equal time to discuss environmental, cultural and labor concerns that such corporate partnerships bring to their countries.

At least in theory, the compact could ease their fears. Participating businesses would agree to support international human rights standards, collective bargaining, and the development of environmentally friendly technologies. It would fight against forced labor, child labor, human rights abuses and employment discrimination. Every year participating countries would post a progress report on a U.N.-sponsored web site.

Mr. Annan himself said Tuesday that "I have no illusions that a single summit in itself can change the world." The United Nations also states that the compact is not designed to be a "corporate shield from criticism." The compact is not a substitute for the responsibility of individual countries to keep companies accountable. The United Nations' new compact partnerships can create a foundation for this process by helping world markets open up, and help to reduce world poverty within an atmosphere of respect for human rights.

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