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UN-Business Partnership: Whose Agenda Counts?

1 Jun 2001

  • Author(s): Peter Utting
  • Source: Transnational Associations: The Review of the Union of International Associations


The following is an extract from an article published by Peter Utting in Transnational Associations: The Review of the Union of International Associations, 3/2001, pp 118-128.

Relations between the United Nations and the private sector are undergoing a significant transformation, which is reflected in the increasing number of so-called "partnerships" involving UN agencies and large corporations. This paper questions the validity of the partnership approach from the perspective of fulfilling the UN's goal of promoting development and human rights for all. It begins by briefly describing the changes that have occurred in UN-business relations during the past three decades. It then identifies the various forces and rationales that are driving the partnership phenomenon, and suggest that some of these give rise to concerns about the motivations and agendas underpinning partnerships. It goes on to look at certain problems that have arisen with partnerships as they operate in practice. The paper concludes by suggesting that the goal of promoting greater corporate environmental and social responsibility requires the UN to be an ally of the global corporate accountability movement. Currently, however, the partnership approach seems to be straining, rather than strengthening, relations between the UN and certain actors in this movement.

The article is available to download here.