Blind trust is not enough – NGOs call for binding global rules

Zurich and Basle, 23.01.2003 - “The Public Eye on Davos,” an international NGO-coalition, has organised an independent conference in Davos on the occasion of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) . NGO experts, academics and political representatives from the global North and South will provide a critical analysis of corporate-driven globalisation and present alternatives towards more equitable and sustainable world economic policies.

The WEF has this year taken on the motto of 'building trust'. This is a timely theme because their own study has shown that public trust in business leaders is at an all-time low. The Public Eye on Davos conference will focus on the daily activities of transnational corporations which have led to this lack of trust, and which contradict the assurances by WEF members that they are striving to be good corporprate citizens. “At the WEF it is always Sunday, filled with noble sounding sermons, but corporations are to be judged by what they do, not what they say,” says Matthias Herfeldt, coordinator of the conference from The Berne Declaration.

The Public Eye on Davos is organised by The Berne Declaration, Friends of the Earth International, and other international NGOs from the North and the South. The conference will be opened today by Oscar Lafontaine, former Finance Minister of Germany, with a speech on the social and environmental responsibilities of large transnational corporations. The conference runs until January 27th and will include panels on the PR strategies of transnational corporations, case studies on the impacts of corporate wrong-doings and a discussion of labour rights.

The Berne Declaration and the other NGOs that support the Public Eye are part of the global movement that challenges corporate-driven, neoliberal globalisation. The most important gathering of this movement, the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, opens today also. Marcelo Lucca from Porto Alegre is at the Public Eye as an 'ambassador' of the World Social Forum and says, “Another world is possible and the struggle to create it will be waged in Davos, in Porto Alegre and everywhere.”

Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth said “Rules are needed to control the worst excesses of big business – not only to protect those who are better off, but to afford rights to those who pay the highest prices of all – in suffering the effects of pollution, degraded land, stolen resources and poverty.” At the Public Eye conference organisers this year highlight the need for international and national regulation to secure corporate accountability.