Press Releases

    12 October 2004

    Secretary-General, Meeting with Chinese Business Leaders, Seeks Support for "Global Compact" on Shared Values and Practices

    NEW YORK, 11 October (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today at a meeting with Chinese business leaders in Beijing:

    I am delighted to be with you today, and to have the chance to exchange views with you on areas of common concern.

    The relationship between the business community and the issues on the United Nations agenda is becoming increasingly well understood.  Indeed, we at the United Nations are seeing more and more ways in which the business community can help advance important global objectives.

    As Chinese business leaders, your contribution to society is decisive -- not only to the future of your country, but also to the way the world economy moves ahead, and the way we manage the effects of globalization.  Enhanced public-private partnership is key to effectively alleviating poverty in China, and to achieve our goal of halving poverty in the world by 2015.

    I am very pleased to learn that two key public-private partnerships initiatives, the China-Africa Business Council and the Social Development Fund between UNDP, China Guangcai Programme and the Chinese Government, are going to be established.

    Few countries epitomize both the benefits and the challenges of globalization as China does.

    For the past several decades, this has been the world’s fastest growing economy. Your country’s dynamism is attracting business interest from all over the world. Every week, more than $1 billion flow into China in foreign direct investment.

    Chinese corporations are rapidly becoming leading players in the global economy.  Chinese enterprises are at the cutting edge of this transformation, which is bringing rising levels of prosperity and opportunity for millions of Chinese.  But the rapid changes also pose severe challenges -- both social and environmental.  And with the prosperity enjoyed by the Chinese business sector also come responsibilities.

    I know a range of issues and questions are already being examined in China.  For instance:

    -- How to address the uneven development between China’s increasingly affluent urban centres and poorer rural areas, as well as between the east and west of the country? 

    -- How can cities and their social systems cope, in a fair way, with the influx of migrant workers looking for economic opportunities and a better life?

    -- How can economic growth be balanced with the protection of the environment?

    -- How can business most effectively help tackle challenges such as environmental protection, the fight against corruption and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS -- challenges that are acute in China today?

    Those kinds of questions, prompted by the impact of globalization, are being asked not only in China, but throughout the world.  It was such questions that led me to propose the Global Compact five years ago.

    Then, as now, I was concerned that unless global markets were embedded in shared values and responsible business practices, the world economy would be fragile and vulnerable to backlash.

    I called on business leaders to join the Global Compact to advance nine universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour conditions and the environment, so that we could help achieve a more stable and inclusive world economy.

    I am happy to report that today the Global Compact includes more than 1,500 companies operating in more than 70 countries -- including China -- and has added a crucial tenth principle; an implacable fight against corruption.

    Chinese companies see clear benefits in joining the Compact.  Through its universal principles, the Compact helps Chinese companies demonstrate their commitment to responsible corporate citizenship, making them more attractive in the global market place.

    Association with the Compact can enhance corporate and brand reputations with stakeholders around the world, including investors and consumers. It can also complement China’s existing business and industrial associations. The voluntary nature of the Compact maximizes learning opportunities about good practices and facilitates steady improvement of performance.

    And, just as important, the Global Compact can help motivate China’s workers.

    Today, let me call on all Chinese companies -- small, medium-sized and large -- to support the Global Compact through a formal commitment to its principles, and to honour and implement those principles in all their business activities.

    With the active engagement of the Chinese business community, I am confident that the Compact can serve as a platform to help China pursue economic growth and global competitiveness, while advancing environmental and social responsibility.

    In this way, it can help ensure that globalization’s benefits can be shared by everyone.

    It can help ensure that business plays its full part in the work to reach the Millennium Development Goals -- agreed by all the world’s Governments as a blueprint for building a better world in the twenty-first century.

    I hope all of you here today will join our efforts by organizing a Global Compact network, of the type that has already been launched in 40 other countries.

    In this way, you will ensure that the Global Compact in China develops in accordance with your own priorities and perspectives.  And you will develop further the bridges you have built through trade and investment with people and nations around the world.

    I also warmly encourage the suggestion that China might host a major international Global Compact event within the next year, which would serve as a practical demonstration of how the Compact can connect Chinese business leaders with the world economy.

    I thank the Chinese Government for its support, and hope that all Government agencies will join our mission to advance corporate social responsibility in China.

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