Chief executives from around the globe agreed today to battle graft and corruption in addition to recommitting themselves to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Global Compact initiative, which promotes good corporate practices in human rights, labour and the environment.
During a day that heard a speech from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as well as roundtables discussions and press conferences that examined the plan's impact, participants at the Global Compact Leaders Summit adopted a simple statement that "business should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery."
Other pledges made during the event include those promising to defend human rights in conflict zones, ensuring decent working conditions and implementing "no-bribe" policies.
Summing up the session, which drew more than 400 corporate executives, government officials and civil society leaders for the largest and highest-level gathering ever held at the United Nations, Mr. Annan said it had ended with "reinvigorated commitments" to the Global Compact and with a deeper understanding of the venture and "where we hope to take it."
"We have addressed the challenges facing the Global Compact as partners, transforming our differences and tensions into constructive strategies for action," he said in closing remarks. "You have shown that, even in an era of uncertainty and fear, business, labour, civil society and governments can overcome their divisions, and build on what they have in common."
Earlier Thursday, Peter Eigen, Chairman of Transparency International, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to combating corruption, recalled that until very recently, the world business community regarded corruption as a necessary evil, with some top executives openly defending the practice of bribing foreign firms with a shrug of the shoulder and an offhand remark: "I hate to do it…and I hate all the problems it will cause down the line…but I have to."
But, following the wide-scale endorsement of the UN Convention Against Corruption, the first globally agreed instrument to provide sweeping measures regarding the prevention of graft, its criminalization, international cooperation against it and recovery of illegal assets, "there was now a solid consensus behind the need to fight corruption," he said.