Business partnerships go global

October 01, 1999

WHO forms alliance with mining companies

Five of the world’s leading natural resource companies – BHP, Pasminco, Placer Dome, Rio Tinto and WMC – have formed the World Alliance for Community Health, a non-profit organisation to improve community health, working with the World Health Organisation. Launched in Australia on August 20, the Alliance will promote and develop private sector led projects, targeting communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Five project proposals, most based on extending site initiated company programmes in Asia, are already under development for submission to WHO for review and approval. Each project must offer quality healthcare, community involvement, health system capacity building and longer term sustainability. Contact Henry Brehaut, World Alliance, on 00 1 416 233 697

New code for effective drug donations

Up to two-fifths of drugs donated to developing countries are not requested by the recipient governments and a third are within a year of their expiry date, according to a study published on August 16 and sponsored by the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations . Representing ten drug companies and six relief agencies, this coalition was formed two years ago amid concerns that drug companies were dumping unwanted supplies onto relief agencies in order to maximise potential tax-breaks in the US. Conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, the study has concluded that drug donations are a valuable source of aid, but unwanted drugs can clog supply lines and potentially hazardous medicines are costly to dispose of properly.

On September 3 the World Health Organisation released a revised version of its 1996 Interagency Guidelines for Drug Donations, following its own report into drugs donations. This found that among recent drug donations to Albania, 44% had no shelf-life information, and half listed only provided trade names, many unfamiliar to the local health professionals. The new guidelines establish best practice and the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations has subsequently said it will endorse them. Contact Gregory Hartl, WHO, 00 41 22 791 4458 ( or for the Harvard Report http://www.hsph.

Cisco and UNDP apply technology to development

The Internet networking company, Cisco Systems , and the United Nations Development Programme have created a new long-term initiative to help end the growing problem of extreme poverty. NetAid was launched in August, with an official Web site going live on September 8 and simultaneous pop concerts in London, New York and Geneva on October 9. The initiative is expected to generate over a billion Web site hits and engage millions of people in combatting poverty, from donations of time and money to involvement with leading anti-poverty organisations. KPMG built the Web site to scale for mass audiences and Akamai Technologies services site content.

In addition, Cisco Systems and the UNDP have together established a partnership to bring Internet education to students in developing countries in the Asia Pacific region. Announced on August 26 in Singapore, the Asia Pacific Development Information Programme will fund ten Cisco Networking academies in nine countries in the region. Contact Helen Ohanlon, Cisco UK, on 0181 756 8000 ( or APDIP enquiries on 00 603 255 9122 (

UNCTAD says rich countries must do more

Overseas investments by multinational companies grew 39% last year to reach a record $640 billion, but the annual report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development , issued on September 21, says developing countries have difficulty in obtaining finance. The share going to developing countries dropped from 37% in 1997 to 28% in 1998 and of this, two-thirds went to just 10 countries (notably Brazil and China). UNCTAD says that foreign direct investment has become the single most important source of external finance for developing countries, accounting for more than half of capital inflows. Contact Carine Richard-Van Maele, UNCTAD, on 00 41 22 917 5816 (

World Bank and OECD launch work project

The World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have launched a joint initiative to improve corporate governance and promote enterprise and accountability. During a two-day meeting of their new Global Corporate Governance Forum in Washington on September 27 and 28, they released an overview of an upcoming World Bank report, Corporate Governance: A Framework for Implementation , which focuses on reforms needed in emerging markets.

Also announced were several new advisory groups: a Private Sector Advisory Group of business leaders to champion reform and develop a network of corporations committed to good practices; a Consultative Group for organised labour, environmental and human rights groups to offer views; and an Investor Responsibility Taskforce of pension and other fund managers to encourage the flow of funds to countries and companies making most progress. Contact Nadereh Chamlou, World Bank, on 00 1 202 458 0473 (

News in brief

• The World Bank ‘s annual World Development Report, released on September 15, says that the number of people living in absolute poverty around the world will continue to rise from approximately 1.5 billion today to 1.9 billion by 2015. Urbanisation and income disparities between rich and power will also increase. Contact Phillip Hay, World Bank, on 00 1 202 473 1796 (

• The Pan American Health Organisation (the regional office of the WHO) and the ILO are cooperating in a new initiative to bring employer organisations, unions and NGOs together with governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. The aim is to extend healthcare to people in vulnerable groups, especially those working in the informal sector, including through micro-insurance schemes. Contact Daniel Epstein, PAHO Office of Public Information, on 00 1 202 974 3459 (

• The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum issued its 1998/99 annual report in August, with a detailed review of programmes which address the growing demands on business to join partnerships. PWBLF simultaneously published a guide for use in emerging markets, Achieving Social and Economic Objectives through Privatisation, prepared in association with KPMG . Contact PWBLF on 0171 467 3600 (


Until recently the traditional model for community partnerships has been between a company and a non-profit organisation acting for individuals and groups in society, often at a national level. At an earlier stage, relations were largely local, usually with neighbours directly affected, say by a factory or mine. As we move to a global economy, with whom should a company relate, if it wishes to engage effectively on the great international challenges – such as the environment or the spread of diseases which know no boundaries like HIV/AIDS?

Very few NGOs have effective global reach on a par with the great corporations which trade in 150 or more countries round the world. Governments are no substitute because their remit runs no further than the national border. Step forward, somewhat belatedly, the international agencies. Most now have some sort of corporate citizenship initiative. The Commonwealth, meeting in Durban during November, is the latest to join in.

This development poses two challenges. The first is to companies, to expand their concept of community activity to encompass both a world view and relations with governmental agencies. The test is whether the purpose is charitable, not that the organisation is a charity. The second challenge is to NGOs themselves, who now find themselves in effect competing with the public sector for companies’ discretionary resources and attention. Founder of CNN, Ted Turner, gave his billion dollar donation to the UN, not to Save the Children or WWF. Such NGOs will need help if they are to form truly global corporate partnerships.

The UK economy is one of the most internationally open. British-based global companies have a particular ability to demonstrate real leadership, building bridges between the developing world as represented by the Commonwealth and the developed economy of Europe.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 48 – October, 1999