Corporations off the hook?

United States aim to undermine corporate accountability at UNCTAD XI

Press release - 16 June, 2004
Greenpeace, Oxfam, Third World Network (TWN) and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) today called on Ministers arriving at the eleventh UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XI) to ensure that global corporations do not undermine sustainable development. The environment and development groups demanded that Ministers resist attempts by the United States to water down existing government commitments to make corporations accountable and liable for their actions worldwide.

Corporate accountability has become one of the main contentious issues at the UNCTAD meeting in Sao Paulo, with the US aiming to undermine a commitment to actively promote corporate accountability made by more than 100 Heads of States and Governments at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. Developing countries are calling for international rules for global corporations to ensure they effectively contribute to development. The European Union has so far failed to defend the World Summit agreement, calling into question their commitment to sustainable development. Oxfam, Greenpeace, TWN and FoEI call on developing countries to stand firm on corporate accountability and on the EU to actively support the developing countries` stance.

Daniel Mittler, corporate campaigner at Greenpeace International said: " UNCTAD must not be held hostage by a corporate-driven US administration hell-bent on undermining multilateral commitments to advance rights for people and the environment."

Sander van Bennekom of Oxfam said: "The financial, technological and political powers of multinational corporations surpass those of many countries, especially in the developing world. Corporate accountability is absolutely imperative to ensure a balance in today's global economy."

UNCTAD XI acknowledges that corporations play a key role in the development process. Oxfam, TWN, Greenpeace and FoEI demand that governments impose responsibilities that match this power. UN studies show that voluntary initiatives are not sufficient to ensure equitable and environmentally friendly development (

"UNCTAD must move forward from Johannesburg and propose binding multilateral regulations for international corporations" said Meena Raman from Friends of the Earth International.