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UN Turning into Public Private Partnership

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World Economic Forumby Harris Gleckman, openDemocracy

A new corporate and government marriage quietly took place last week when the leadership of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the United Nations (UN) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to partner with each other. While this MOU is proudly displayed on the WEF website, it is nowhere to be found on the UN website. The only indication on the UN website of this important new development is a picture of the pen used to sign the agreement, and two pictures of the signing ceremony.

One reason for this difference is that the UN’s corporate-centered Global Compact has received a good deal of bad press. Now the new WEF-UN agreement creates a second special place for multinational corporations inside the UN. There is no similar institutional homes in the UN system for civil society, for academics, for religious leaders, or for youth. It is hard to imagine a national government signing a similar formal partnership with one of its business organizations.

At the same time, the UN is under pressure from Donald Trump who wants to deconstruct the whole multilateral system. For Trump, dismantling the international system built after World War II is a companion piece to his domestic effort at deconstructing the administrative state. For the Secretary-General of the UN, the pact with the WEF may well be his effort to find new power actors who can support the current system, which is now celebrating its 75th anniversary, in the face of Trump’s onslaught.

On the other side, the WEF recently received significant public criticism after giving Hungarian Prime Minister Orban and Brazilian President Bolsonaro a warm welcome at its 2019 Davos gathering. This marriage may be seen as a way for the WEF to re-establish itself as part of the global governance center.

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© 2019 openDemocracy

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