Kofi Annan’s Global Compact (GC) has attracted wide acclaim in the world’s press. In the United States, the venerable Washington Post praised it in an editorial, and the Christian Science Monitor lauded it as his “most creative reinvention” yet of the United Nations. At the same time, the initiative has generated suspicion and in some instances sharp criticism by many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). “The UN’s positive image is vulnerable to being sullied by corporate criminals,” claims Corpwatch, “while companies get a chance to ‘bluewash’ their image by wrapping themselves in the flag of the United Nations.” Thus, what the mainstream press views as highly innovative, critics decry as “fatally flawed,” reflecting their differing attitudes toward the corporate sector and globalization. But more subtle factors are also involved in reaching these conflicting assessments. The GC has adopted a learning model for inducing corporate change, in contrast to a more conventional regulatory approach; and it is a network form of organization rather than the traditional hierarchical or bureaucratic form. The upshot of these distinctive (and, for the UN, highly unusual) features is twofold: critics seriously underestimate the GC’s potential, while supporters may hold excessive expectations.


Ruggie, John Gerard. "global_governance.net: The Global Compact as Learning Network." Understanding Global Cooperation. Ed. Kurt Mills, and Kendall Stiles. Brill, May 2021, 139-146.