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Understanding the UN Global Compact, Q & A

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In the year 2014 , the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC)

was selected to be the host of the UN global compact local network in Malawi. several developments have happened ever since the movement was started in Malawi, our reporter Ellen Zangewa caught up with AICC CEO, Dr. Felix Lombe to learn more about the UN global compact movement.

Briefly what is the UN Global Compact?

The UN Global Compact is a movement that was established to provide a platform for businesses to act responsibly on development, support companies to do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with ten principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. Thus the Global compact movement is the largest world initiatives at mainstreaming the ten principles in business activities mainly focusing on labor, environment, human rights and Governance.

 How did the movement come about and when did the movement start? Is it a new initiative?
Well, I can’t say the GC is a new initiative but maybe if we take it in Malawi scenario, then it might sound new since we are still in awareness stage. However if we are talking GC as a whole then the movement started as early as the year 2000.  In his  landmark speech during the World Economic Forum in the year 1999, the then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, observed that the single minded goal of profit in business at any cost was fracturing societies  and destroying the environment, thus business was threatening the very elements that underpinned its own existence. Kofi Annan therefore called for a revolution in how business operate, and this is what later on resulted in the birth of the UN Global Compact.

Earlier on, you pointed out that, there are guiding principles in GC, basically what are these principles and what are the goals for instituting these principles?
Basically, as I indicated earlier own the ten principles in GC are there to ensure that businesses, as a primary drivers of globalization, can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology and finance advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere. However in order to realize this vision, the initiative seeks to mainstream the Global Compact’s Ten Principles in business strategy and operations around the world. These principles are in essence benchmarks for evaluating the success of mainstreaming the GC initiative. The principles are:

Principal 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human  Rights
Principal 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses
Principal 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the Right to collective bargaining
 Principal 4: The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour
 Principal 5: The effective abolition of child labour and
Principal 6: The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation
Principal 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges
 Principal 8: Undertake initiatives to promote great environmental responsibility; and
Principal 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies
Principal 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all forms

From your explanation you seem to mainly focus on business oriented entities, is the GC limited to profit making companies only?
The GC is an open movement which both profit making organization and Nongovernmental organization can join. However the emphasis seem to dwell on companies because of the vast nature of their operations. It more likely for companies to act astray than Non-profit making institution because probably most of their operations are already aligned to such principles within their operation. Not demonizing the private sectors, there are other players who have taken heed of such principles already and highly contributing the development of the country. But with the private sector being sideline in most of the social interventions programes the GC is also such a good platform that the Pvt sector can act collectively for a good cause.

Why should companies and other interested institutions join the GC Movement? What are the benefits associated with GC.
There are a number of benefits that institutions who have registered to be members of the GC can benefit from the movement. Apart from the fact that institutions can advance sustainability solutions in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including UN agencies, governments, civil society, labour, and other non-business interests. Meopportunity to members also have the adopt an established and globally recognized policy framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of environmental, social, and governance policies and practices. Share best and emerging practices to advance practical solutions and strategies to common challenges. In addition the movement also act as a platform for linking business units and subsidiaries across the value chain with the Global Compact’s Local Networks around the world — many of these in developing and emerging markets. And members have the opportunity to access the United Nations’ extensive knowledge of and experience with sustainability and development issues as well as utilise UN Global Compact management tools and resources, and the opportunity to engage in specialized work streams in the environmental, social and governance realms.

What is the role of AICC in this GC, taking into perspective the fact that AICC is not a UN institution?
AICC as a an institution that was established with a mandate to promote the role of business  in development was essentially chosen to be the host of the UN global compact local  network in Malawi because of its active role in mainstreaming corporate citizenship,. You might wish to know that the Globe compact movement is the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative aimed at mainstreaming the ten principles  in business activities around the world and catalyse actions in support of broader UN goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).  this is simply in line with AICC operations that are essentially centered on the phenomenon of Corporate Citizenship.

For interested companies, how do they join the local network? Is it a complicated process.
The process is not that complicated. Actually it is very easy and quick. Interested parties can simply approach AICc and request for a membership form which stipulates the basic fundamentals of the UN global compact, then they are requested to sign the form if they are in agreement with the stipulated conditions. Then they will be registered in the UN global compact system.

Are there any Financial Expectations of Becoming a member of Global Compact
The UN Global Compact is a voluntary initiative, not a formal membership organization. Upon joining the UN Global Compact, companies are asked to make a regular annual contribution to support the work of the UN Global Compact. This revenue is critical to the development of value-maximizing programmes, projects and resources for the benefit of all participating companies. These contributions are received, administered and distributed through the Foundation for the Global Compact


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