On the UN-Corporate Beat: Dow Chemical luncheon chickens come home to roost

MATTHEW RUSSELL OF INNER CITY PRESS, AT THE UN, AUGUST 22, 2006
UNITED NATIONS, August 22 — Across from UN on Manhattan’s East Side on Tuesday there was a protest of the use of Agent Orange in Southeast Asia. A manufacturer and distributor of Agent Orange, Dow Chemical, was celebrated at UN Headquarters less than a month ago, in a luncheon addressed by Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown and Mr. Amir A. Dossal, the head of the UN Foundation for International Partnerships. Inner City Press covered and questioned the luncheon on July 25, inquiring into how the UN screens and even tries to reform the corporations with which it interacts.
Tuesday at a noon press conference Kofi Annan’s spokesman was asked this question, and he said that “it’s clear that the Secretary-General has made an effort to reach out to transnational corporations, who have a role to play in the world we live in.” Asked by Inner City Press how the UN’s “bully pulpit” is used to improve these corporations, the spokesman said that’s what the Global Compact is for. Video at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/pressbriefing/brief060822.rm, Minutes 21:10 to 23:15.
UN-civil society?
Later on Tuesday the spokesman’s office sent Inner City Press a copy of Dow Chemical’s May 25, 2006 letter to Kofi Annan, asking him to attend the luncheon at that time two months out. The luncheon and the partnership with the UN are presented as fait accompli. Only the luncheon’s date is in question, to accommodate the Secretary-General’s schedule. As it turned out, due to intervening world events, Mr. Malloch Brown attended in Kofi Annan’s stead. At the luncheon, the Deputy Secretary General said of Dow, “we endorse it.”
Since the May 25 letter does not refer to any review of Dow Chemical’s record, or any discussions for example with Amnesty International, which is on record questioning Dow’s ethics, the question of question of oversight and safeguards remains unanswered. Email inquiries on Tuesday resulted in a call back from Mr. Dossal’s office in New York, saying that he is in London but would call at or just after 5 p.m.. 6 p.m. his office called to say Mr. Dossal had dictated an email, which subsequently arrived. Given the proximity between its receipt and deadline, it is presented in full without comment:

From: dossal [at] un.org
To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
Cc: OSSG, ODSG
Sent: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 6:02 PM
Subject: Re: Request for your comment on 7/25/06 Dow Chemical lunch, in light of today’s Agent Orange protest on 1st Avenue
Dear Mr. Lee,
Thank you very much for the follow-up regarding the Dow/Blue Planet Run event. I am currently out of the country, but I wanted to provide you with some background information below. As you may know, over 1.5 billion people do not have access to clean water. Dow Chemical is part of a global water challenge to work on raising our awareness and mobilizing new resources to bring safe drinking water to people in developing countries. The CEO of Dow is personally committed to this effort, working with the Blue Planet Run Foundation. The intention is to attract new funders who will contribute towards the achievement of this pressing Millennium Development Goal.
As you might be aware, it has been this Secretary-General’s stated commitment to engage all actors, especially to harness the leadership of companies, foundations and NGOs to find creative solutions in addressing problems in the developing world. We feel that encouraging Dow Chemical and other multi-nationals to support the MDGs will make them more sensitive and more aware of their responsibility to be good corporate citizens. FYI, the Global Water Challenge includes a number of companies and foundations, including the UN Foundation, and NGOs, who are committed to finding solutions. I hope this information is helpful.
Amir A. Dossal, Executive Director
UN Office for International Partnerships
http://www.un.org/unfip/
http://www.un.org/democracyfund/

For now, Inner City Press’ previous description of the July 25 Dow luncheon is at http://www.innercitypress.com/unhq072506.html and below, with links to other perspectives on Dow Chemical’s performance, not mentioned at the lunch or in the lead-up, it appears.
Feedback: editorial [at] innercitypress.com
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
Reporter’s mobile: 718-716-3540

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