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UN Holds First Session of Global Compact’s Advisory Council

At the United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, in New York, the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, has convened the first meeting of the Global Compact Advisory Council. The idea behind the initiative is to unite business and labor leaders from around the world, to help advance human rights, labor rights, and concerns for the environment.

The Advisory Council comprises leading business executives working in tandem with labor leaders and non-governmental organizations. Their goal is to promote the idea of the Global Compact, a plan set out by Mr. Annan whereby businesses from around the world adopt a series of principles promoting human rights, environmental concerns and a host of other policies.

One of the participants is Bob Hormats, vice chairman of the brokerage house Goldman, Sachs. "It seems to me," he said, "that the way to look at this Global Compact now is as an opportunity for companies that are confronting a number of challenges in the global marketplace to use this as a forum for learning from other companies how to address these challenges more effectively."

The idea for the Global Compact itself came about in a speech given by Mr. Annan in July of 1999. Since then, hundreds of companies and civil rights groups have asked to become involved.

Bill Jordan is the general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. He noted that as criticism mounts over the effects of globalization, businesses now have an opportunity to show they are not just interested in turning a profit.

"The secretary-general gave the business world an opportunity to show that big business is not just about that," said Mr. Jordan. "Big business wanted the global economy the global market to succeed, and they were and my experience has shown that they are prepared to have standards alongside as part of- their drive in having a globalized market."

The Global Compact includes programs ranging from adult literacy campaigns, to child labor laws. The group is also active in developing new means of combating HIV/AIDS infection.

Participation in the Global Compact is strictly voluntary, but the members of the Advisory Council hope to encourage interested companies to step forward and sign on. By doing so, they hope many of the economic benefits of globalization will be translated into benefits for workers and the environment as well.