Coca-Cola Led Commission Rejected by International Campaign Against Coca-Cola

Universities Becoming Complicit in Coca-Cola's Public Relations Strategy to Counter Opposition

For Immediate Release
July 5, 2005

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center E: amit(AT)IndiaResource.org T: +44 7731 865 591 (UK) +1 415 336 7584 (US)

London (July 5, 2005): The India Resource Center is deeply concerned about the bias already evident in the 'commission' meeting taking place in Chicago on July 7th, 2005 between university administrators and Coca-Cola company officials.

The purpose of the commission, according to the official notification of the meeting, is "to develop a plan for third-party, independent investigations of the concerns that have been raised regarding conditions at the Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia and India."

The commission includes representatives from the Coca-Cola company, universities and selected 'expert' organizations.

No representatives from India and Colombia raising concerns about Coca-Cola's activities have either been invited or informed. The idea of the commission and its composition has been decided by a handful of university administrators and Coca-Cola company representatives. Administrators from the University of California, DePaul University and the University of Illinois have led the effort to work with the Coca-Cola company to develop the commission.

We are advising university administrators that engaging in such a process is a futile effort. Any outcome as a result of this commission will enjoy no credibility whatsoever in India simply because the Coca-Cola company has been included at the inception, and communities from India and Colombia have been excluded.

We fail to understand how such a commission can retain any semblance of independence given that the Coca-Cola company is being allowed to set the terms of reference for the work to be done by the commission.

We expect a much more balanced and deliberate process from a university aided process. We are quite shocked that institutions of higher learning - which are predicated on the principles of fairness and equality - have agreed to such a biased process.

The serious concerns being raised by the communities in India and Colombia must be at the center of any investigation, and shutting them out of the process at the inception does exactly what the Coca-Cola company is striving to do - marginalize its critics. As such, universities participating in this process are becoming complicit in Coca-Cola's public relations effort to whitewash its crimes in India and Colombia.

This is not acceptable to us, and we are confident that it is not acceptable to the university community at large.

We advise the university administrations to immediately reject the current composition and the process underway with the Coca-Cola company.

We welcome investigations into the concerns being raised by communities in India against the Coca-Cola company. In fact, we expect universities to conduct rigorous investigations. However, the current process underway, with Coca-Cola's inclusion and the affected parties' exclusion, is simply not acceptable.

We trust that the university community will recognize and correct the mistakes being made.

The India Resource Center works directly with communities in India campaigning against Coca-Cola and coordinates the campaign internationally.

Feel free to contact us at info@IndiaResource.org and visit www.IndiaResource.org for more information.

The commission, set for a meeting on July 7, 2005 includes:

Coca-Cola company: 4 representatives

Universities: Tom Drexler (DePaul University), Glen Fichman (University of California), Larry Mann (University of Illinois), Lon Moeller (University of Iowa), Dennis Poszywak (University of Michigan), Rick Van Brimmer (Ohio State University), and Jim Wilkerson (Duke University).

Students: Venessa Cudabac (Hofstra University), Jory Hearst (University of Michigan), Ben Meyer (DePaul University), Kevin Keystone (University of British Colombia), Camilo Romero (United Students Against Sweatshops), and Phil Shelton (Indiana University).

Experts: Auret Van Heerden (Fair Labor Association), Scott Nova (Workers' Rights Consortium), and Dara O'Rourke (University of California).


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