The Next UN Secretary General Needs to Allow Dissent and Respect American Member’s Constitutional Rights

On May 6, 2016, ToddandClare.com was honored with being accepted as a new member to join a United Nations program, the UN Global Compact. We were happy to join because many of the UN’s publicly stated “Sustainable Development Goals”, core to the UN Global Compact program, aligned closely with our efforts for women’s rights.

Why We Joined the United Nations

For ToddandClare.com, as a small, grassroots dating site, with a commitment to gender equality; being part of such a UN program seemed like a natural partnership.

“No matter how large or small, and regardless of their industry, all companies can contribute to the SDGs.”—Quoted from UN Global Compact website

Like big companies, including Nestle and steel giant, Tata, who have been thrown out of the same UN program in the past, according to the UN’s delisting fact sheet, ToddandClare.com took our UN membership seriously, and we financially invested in it.

We were happy to implement the UN’s required (very extensive) regulations which required hours of staff training, and their many difficult reporting protocols, some of which required external auditors for company business, into our people infrastructure.

At first it seemed like a great match. The below email correspondence between us, and UN staffers, Margaret Fenwick, one of the UN’s Media and Communications managers, and Carolina Lima, our UN Relationship Manager, evidenced that from the outset UN representatives made very clear to ToddandClare.com, in writing, we were a very welcome addition to the UN.

Not least as the UN’s first dating site member. As you can imagine, it was an exciting, heady time. As passionate business owners, who care about our constitutional rights and being good corporate citizens, we were thrilled to receive recognition from such a prestigious body, as the United Nations.

On June 29, 2016, less than 2 months after being accepted, our team member Stephen, who was the UN’s designated contact point, received this personal email from UN staffer Margaret Fenwick:

“Dear Stephen, We were very happy at the UN Global Compact to read the Buzz Feed article about Tood & Clare [sic] being a participant of the Global Compact.”

The Buzz Feed article to which Ms Fenwick linked to in her email, was a (since deleted) piece published in the Buzz Feed community section which, unfortunately, much like Ms Fenwick’s above email, misspelled our company name. The Buzz Feed piece that trashed our name, was not in any way authorized by Todd and Clare.

Nevertheless, even after disclosing this information, it didn’t stop Ms Fenwick writing back to us on June 30, 2016, to encourage ToddandClare.com with a message of support:

“Dear Stephen, Thanks for your email and I figured maybe an external person had written this given the name misspelling…. We appreciate Todd and Clare’s participation in the UN Global Compact. Best regards, Margaret”

A Problem with Transparency and Dissent at the United Nations

In a turn of events on October 12, 2016, less than 10 days after ToddandClare.com had spent thousands of dollars in staff training to align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we’ve sadly met the same fate as Nestle and Tata Steel: Being delisted.

As if delisting weren’t bad enough, they’ve also replaced our UN member page with a defamatory statement about “integrity measures” on their public website: https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/participants/83761-T-C-Network-Solutions

At a time when ToddandClare.com had met with so much personal encouragement and warm words from UN staff, who like us, are based in the United States, the UN’s sudden delisting of their first and only (at the time of writing) dating site member, is quite shocking.

Keep in mind that ToddandClare.com achieved all our UN reporting requirements to submit reports, as demonstrated by Google Cache of our recent October report, showing how our internal procedures aligned with the UN’s anti-corruption and sustainability framework.

Reporting to the UN on all company business, as required by their own mandate, meant we were forced to tell the UN about our legal interactions with Julian Assange, some of which are now sub judice.

Our main question relates to why has the United Nations, considering the fact it publicizes itself as a beacon of transparency in corporate leadership, hidden ToddandClare.com’s special reporting page on the UN site, with all our extensive accreditation, UN-monitored assessments, and detailed reporting stages?

There’s a Kafkaesque and unAmerican feel to the United Nations dumping on Todd and Clare. The UN wants to have its headquarters in our country, but at the same time, doesn’t want to acknowledge its own American member’s constitutional rights, like freedom of speech.

In our country, where the UN has their offices, dissent is not illegal. America is not Iran. Businesses here aren’t closed down because someone high up in the UN, doesn’t like a piece of corporate literature the business has submitted for publication.

It’s scary to us, as Americans, to see the UN behave like Iran.

What happened to the UN’s ideals for equality, expressed mostly recently in actress Emma Watson’s inspiring speech for UN Women?

The UN Declaration on Human Rights talks about citizens being able to live without state-level interference, yet here the UN is today, delisting and blocking a small company because we criticized their support for Julian Assange.

We believe the next UN Secretary General needs to allow dissent and respect American member’s constitutional rights.

At the first sign of disagreement with a UN ruling, our recent UN report has been deleted, and now only returns a general UN redirect: https://www.unglobalcompact.org/system/attachments/cop_2016/322211/original/ToddandClare.com_United_Nations_GC_Member_Report_COP_1042016.pdf?1475591336

Search results show that Google has a cached copy as originally published by the United Nations Global Compact.

Less Favorable Treatment for Less-Rich UN Members

In the past, we’ve heard the criticisms of the United Nations Global Compact, summarized on Wikipedia as “bluewashing”, and to be fair, by the end of summer, ToddandClare.com was beginning to find the constant stream of emails from the UN Global Compact, begging for cash donations, relentless since we joined the program, to be a little off-putting and stressful.

We already give money to charities, and we didn’t join the UN to be a blank check to fund them.

Constantly being asked for cash by the UN, inevitably, did challenge our original view of the UN that was shaped by the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, and not least, by the legacy of great UN Ambassadors, like Eleanor Roosevelt. When someone mentions the UN, we want to think about that speech Mrs Roosevelt made about small people having rights in small places, not being attacked in angry emails from the same powerful organization, because Todd and Clare dissented.

When we first joined, what settled our concerns about the UN’s constant money grab, was the fact that the UN had up on public display a great set of benefactors to guide a newbie like ToddandClare.com; like Deutsche Bank and Ernst and Young who are UN members in the same Global Compact program that ToddandClare.com has just been sacked from.

Back in September, we were sure that ToddandClare.com’s continued membership of the UN was the right course of action, if not the cheapest.

The most significant issue that being constantly pumped for cash by the UN did for our internal procedures, was to raise questions among our staff if ToddandClare.com would receive less favorable treatment because we obviously couldn’t donate to the UN with the same generosity as bigger companies, like Deutsche Bank, and Coca-Cola to give another example. We hoped it wouldn’t negatively reflect on our membership.

It clearly has though. Not being able to donate millions of dollars every week to the United Nations, has certainly provided for less favorable treatment of ToddandClare.com than a bigger company would have received.

It’s an unjust and unfair situation, when we were fulfilling our UN goals so conscientiously.

If You’re a UN Member, Big or Small: Don’t Complain or They’ll Threaten You

ToddandClare.com’s delisting should be a warning to other UN members: The United Nations Global Compact is happy to accept your money, but not your feedback.

And, if you disagree with the UN in any way, expect angry repercussions like having your integrity publicly called into question. From a body that accepts cash donations from companies, hand over fist, yet doesn’t want to be accountable to their own member’s dissent, that is surely a debate topic.

ToddandClare.com is now receiving threats from an anonymous UN email, in relation to our above delisting, that implies they can potentially destroy us. Such threats make us wonder about why the UN is so frightened by internal dissent from its members, and about the constitutional legalities of an entity like the United Nations accepting US-owned and US-regulated businesses, like ToddandClare.com, into their organization. Which at the same time, seeks the lofty ideals for gender equality that Emma Watson is representing. We can’t reconcile Emma’s speech with the UN’s biased treatment of us.

Maybe the solution would have been for the UN not to have allowed a dating site to join its lofty ranks, with billion-dollar paying businesses, in the first instance. But if that’s true, wouldn’t that by its very fact go against the UN Global Compact’s founding principles about inclusiveness, as stated on the UN’s own website:

“A call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.”

We want to assure all our friends and associates that ToddandClare.com will continue to work hard to manage our goals for information privacy, women’s rights, and commitment to gender equality in online dating. We have a complex business and must manage privacy with freedom of information, which are in the dating space, sometimes, diametrically opposing forces.

We Still Believe We Were Right to Be a WhistleBlower

Like the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s misguided support for a fugitive rapist, as we dissented about in our submission, that means the UN is unforgivably attacking the international reputations of Sweden and the UK, we believe the UN’s attack on ToddandClare.com’s integrity is also misguided.

As our happy time at the UN has been a milestone for ToddandClare.com, and we don’t have a time machine to unwrite history, we’ll leave up on our company website and social media that we were a former United Nations member. Looking at how many excellent strides for good corporate citizenship other former UN Global Compact members (Nestle, Tata Steel et al) have made since their similar unceremonious delistings, it’s the UN’s threats to hurt us, not the delisting itself, that makes today a bitter pill to swallow.

The Todd and Clare team