The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Christina Rossi

Report: Water Corporations Use United Nations to Bluewash Abuses

10th Anniversary of PR Initiative Celebrated in New York, Protested Globally


Corporate Accountability International released a report today,
"Water Governance: For the People or for the Bottom Line?" examining
how a joint United Nations-corporate initiative threatens the way water
resources are managed globally. Its release precedes the 10th
anniversary gathering for the United Nations Global Compact this week.
The Compact's CEO Water Mandate is a voluntary initiative addressing
the human right to water by partnering with corporations contributing
to and profiting from today's global water crisis.

"The United Nations is in a state of conflict. On the one hand, it
tries to promote democratic water governance as the key to solving the
global water crisis," said Kelle Louaillier, Corporate Accountability
International executive director. "On the other, it partners with
corporations that profit from water scarcity and commodification. It's
a recipe for millions going thirsty to satisfy the thirst for profit of
a handful of corporations."
For the last three years, civil society has called on
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw United Nations support from
the Mandate. This week a "transparency framework" will be released in
an attempt to placate the Mandate's critics. But as Corporate
Accountability International's report points out, the problem with the
Mandate is rooted in its very structure.
"The core problem is that the Mandate's presence within the United
Nations is itself a fundamental conflict of interest," said Louaillier.
"The United Nation's sponsorship trades accountability for
'partnership,' blurring the lines between the private and public
sector. This institutionalizes - rather than guards against -
relationships with corporations that pose real and potential conflicts
of interest, which is particularly dangerous when it comes to water."
"Water Governance: For the People or for the Bottom Line?" draws
attention to recently adopted, strong guidelines protecting against
such corporate conflicts of interest in the global tobacco treaty--one
of the most quickly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations'
history. Corporate Accountability International is calling on the
United Nations to establish clear and enforceable standards across U.N.
agencies that protect the public interest from corporate conflicts of
"Issues like the global water crisis are too important to be
shaped by the corporate bottom line - the world's people, not the
world's largest corporations should be in the driver's seat," said
Key Recommendations
Governments must safeguard against conflicts of interest,
including avoiding situations when voluntary initiatives or
partnerships undermine governments' effectiveness, objectivity and
The United Nations should have stronger standards and safeguards
throughout the institution as a whole to prevent and address corporate
conflicts of interest. The U.N. should not be the institutional home
for initiatives that are conceived of and driven by corporations.
Swift and concrete action by the U.N. is needed to address the
concerns raised in this paper. Our recommendations for such action are
as follows:
* Have the United Nations establish clear and enforceable
standards preventing corporate conflict of interest, based on the
principles set forth in the FCTC's Article 5.3 that guard against
conflicts of interest and preserve and protect the primacy of human
rights over commercial enterprise.
* Have the United Nations withdraw its institutional support from the CEO Water Mandate.

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