Protesters bang the drum for BASD
Paris, 9 October 2001 - More than 40 drum-wielding protesters besieged ICC headquarters today in an attempt to disrupt the inaugural meeting of Business Action for Sustainable Development.
The protesters - some from as far as Denmark and The Netherlands - waved banners and brandished slogans decrying the creation of this new international business network.
Business Action for Sustainable Development (BASD) is a joint-initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) created to spearhead business preparations for next year's United Nations World Summit in Johannesburg.
On the podium inside ICC headquarters, Under-Secretary General of the UN, Nitin Desai and chair of BASD, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart launched proceedings by acknowledging it was important that all parties to the sustainable development debate had their voices heard.
"We welcome their presence. We welcome their passion," Sir Mark said of the protestors. "These people have as much of a contribution to make to the process of sustainable development as the business community does.
"It was for this reason we invited them inside to join the meeting and share their concerns with us. In the end, they declined the invitation, preferring to stay outside."
As more than 140 business leaders discussed with UN officials how they might best contribute to next year's World Summit in Johannesburg, the protesters alleged business involvement in any sustainable development projects amounted to little more than a "greenwash".
Sir Mark - former chair of Shell - said that business involvement was "exactly what the meeting is about."
"We are here to make sure that we identify concrete examples of what we have achieved in the area of sustainable development in the ten years since (the first Earth Summit in) Rio.
"The point of this meeting is to discuss these projects and look at ways of doing more of them."
Sir Mark also dismissed the protestors' claims that business involvement with the United Nations constituted a "privatization" of the UN.
"The UN is an intergovernmental organization," he said. "The UN is interested in engaging all the different members of society - be they business people, governments, NGOs or grass-roots communities in developing countries .
"All of them are being invited to come along to Johannesburg and participate in a discussion on how we can all cooperate to find solutions together for a sustainable future."