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Sweden: Lindahl Forced to Leave UN

by Lennart PehrsonDagens Nyheter (Daily News, Stockholm)
February 27th, 2002

(Unofficial translation from Swedish)

New York -- The former chief executive officer of ABB, Goran Lindahl, will not be allowed to continue his prestigious post as special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Lindahl was pressured to resign after a pension scandal at ABB.

The UN chief has informed Lindahl that his contract is not to be renewed when it expires at the end of the month.

Kofi Annan has chosen not to directly comment on the pension scandal in which Goran Lindahl is one of the main actors. The official explanation regarding termination of the position as advisor is that Lindahl will take up a post as Chairman of the Board of the mining conglomerate Anglo-American and that therefore he could be expected to have less time to devote to the United Nations.

But it is evident that Goran Lindahl is not resigning at his own request. It is the UN chief who has taken the decision not to extend the one-year contract, which expires at the end of February. Previously there were no indications that the position was envisaged to be limited to a one-year period. Neither is it a full time occupation but a rather flexible and less schematic advisory role as advisor to promote a dialogue between the UN and the international private sector.

It was in mid-February that the ABB board revealed that the former chief executives Percy Barnevik and Goran Lindahl had pension agreements that together gave them an amount of almost 1,5 billion Swedish crowns. Lindahl's share was 530 million crowns. [Approximately 53 million dollars.]

When this became known demands were made from various quarters for Lindahl's resignation - among others from Prime Minister Goran Person. Thus it became difficult for Kofi Annan to keep Goran Lindahl as an advisor. A credibility problem was at hand.

The responsibilities of Goran Lindahl have been primarily to assist the UN chief in the work with the Global Compact, an initiative that Kofi Annan has taken to reach increased cooperation between political institutions, the private sector and interest organisations, with the purpose of responding to protests raised against economic globalisation.

The Global Compact is something of a favorite child of Kofi Annan. It is the first advisory UN group that consists of members from both the public and the private sector. The Secretary General has also several times emphasized the need for the UN to work together with the private sector.

One of the main tasks of Goran Lindahl has been to increase the interest in the private sector for the Global Compact, which today has hundreds of major companies from the whole world as members.

When Kofi Annan a year ago presented Goran Lindahl as his new advisor he described the former ABB chief executive as not only a successful businessman but also as a business leader with a strong conviction that the private sector must take a serious social responsibility, live up to the slogan "good business citizen."

In the same speech Kofi Annan affirmed, "It is a simple fact that if we can not get globalisation to work for all it will in the end not function for anybody. The unequal distribution of privileges and the unbalances in global decision making that characterize globalisation today will surely lead to setbacks and protectionism."

The idea of the Global Compact is to get the big transnational corporations into a programme where a moral dimension in business life is emphasized in order to create preconditions for an economic globalisation with social responsibility. A central idea is that a global market can only function if the business sector considers the demands that are made concerning human rights, improved working conditions and better environment.

The UN chief has several times made it clear that he views the gap between rich and poor and growing differences in income as a fundamental problem that has to be addressed if globalisation is to proceed.

Goran Lindahl was unavailable forcomment.

Lennart Pehrson
Email: lpehrson@ix.netcom.com





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