Italy’s joining of the Global Compact is a culmination of the early days of the United Nations initiative to have business leaders embrace universal principles in human rights, labour and the environment, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today in Rome.Speaking at the formal launch of the Compact in Italy, Ms. Fréchette noted that 23 Italian companies were officially participating, and that “the Global Compact Italian Network is up and running.” She said the Italian Government and the country’s business community had shown great leadership in advancing the Compact.”I can assure you that the Secretary-General is very glad to know that the Compact is taking hold in a country that plays such an important and truly innovative role in the world economy,” she added.Secretary-General Kofi Annan first raised the notion of developing a “global compact of shared values and principles” in business in January 1999 at the World Economic Forum. He challenged world business leaders to “embrace and enact” the benefits of global economic development through voluntary corporate policies and actions. His vision was realized 18 months later with the creation of the Global Compact.Ms. Fréchette said the Compact was not a contract, a code of conduct, a set of regulations or a new system of monitoring. “Rather, it is an attempt to get business to work with the United Nations, on a voluntary basis, to fortify the social pillars of the global economy,” she said. It brings companies together with international labour and civil society organizations, with the ultimate aim of helping to ensure that the benefits of globalization reach all the world’s people.”The prospect of having Italy’s unique energies as part of this effort is very encouraging,” she said, “for let us make no mistake; we have a long way to go.” Today’s launch was both the culmination of the Global Compact’s early days in Italy, and the beginning of what the Secretary-General hoped would be a more intense phase of activity and accomplishment, she added.