On 13 December 2016, the International Chamber of Commerce (the “ICC”) was granted observer status at the United Nations General Assembly (the “UNGA”). This is the first time a business organisation will be entitled to participate in the work of the UNGA. Observer status is usually reserved for intergovernmental organisations, other entities with some degree of statehood or sovereignty and a few major non-governmental organisations.

The private sector will now have a direct voice in the UN system and be able to influence the creation of international norms and engage in global governance issues, including the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The ICC will take up its position as observer on 1 January 2017.

The resolution to grant observer status to the ICC was submitted by France, the ICC’s host country, and adopted by all 193 members of the UNGA. According to the UN press release, the UNGA recognised that the ICC provides a forum for business and other organisations to examine the nature and significance of the major shifts taking place in the world economy.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, ICC Chairman, stated that this “is a huge recognition of the role that business can play in contributing to a better and peaceful world. There is only one route to meeting the many challenges that face our society – from climate change to mass migration – and that is for governments and civil society to work hand-in-hand with the private sector. Granting Observer Status to ICC sends a powerful signal that the UN recognizes business as a vital partner”.