Corporate Power

Critical thinking, real solutions

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TNI continued to play a coordinating role in the Week of People’s Mobilisation in Geneva.

Recent decades have seen an expansion in corporate power and influence over state, regional and international bodies, as well as over academia and science. Transnational corporations (TNCs) are accused of capturing states, and determining their economic, social and development policy. TNCs also undermine democracy, and put in place a trade and investment agenda that grants them extensive rights, and effective impunity for violations of human rights or destruction of the environment.

Avoiding any accountability, TNCs are protected by an architecture of impunity which consist  of  free trade and investment protection agreements, coupled with Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) sanctioning mechanisms on states. TNI’s Corporate Power project works internationally to push back against such corporate impunity.

In 2017, TNI continued to be actively engaged in the UN Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group  (OEIGWG)  process, which seeks an internationally binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises with respect to Human Rights.  Such a treaty would be a major step towards effecting systemic change, and granting access to justice for the countless communities affected by the activities of TNCs. Since the launch of the Global Campaign to Reclaim People's Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity in 2012, TNI has participated and worked with an international network of social movements, trade unions, civil society organizations and communities affected by TNC operations, to push for the development and adoption of the treaty.

In 2017, the programme's main focus was preparing for the 3rd session of the OEIGWG and  facilitating the development of a Draft Proposal  text as a specific civil society input to the Treaty process.

GOALS: Move towards the establishment of a Treaty for binding regulations for transnational corporations, which would end impunity and secure justice for communities affected by corporate abuses.

Goals (2020) Outcomes in 2017 to which TNI contributed
Build an international coalition of civil society organizations working toward a Treaty on TNCs at the UN level, advocating binding norms in relation to human rights and corporate activities and mechanisms that provide access to justice for affected communities.
  • 16 new organizations active at the continental and international level joined the Stop Corporate Impunity network.
  • The Global Campaign network expanded to include international networks from different global regions working to raise the issues of corporate power and impunity. Of particular significance was the joining of new members in the trade union and health sectors – the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), Sud Solidaires Trade Union, and the Peoples Health Movement India.
  • Activists from 44 countries – representing unions, peasant organizations, environmental organizations, youth, women, indigenous peoples, migrants and the access to medicines movements – convened in Geneva to participate in and observe the proceedings of the UN Human Rights Council in October 2017. Participants made oral statements to the session’s six panels.
  • The World Parliamentary Forum on the Binding Treaty was formalized and a Public Forum was held in Geneva. The statement from the forum was signed by 250 MPs and MEPs from 22 countries.
  • The 2nd Hearing of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal session on communities affected by TNCs in seven countries in Southern Africa was held in Johannesburg in August.
A significant number of governments engage in the Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) working on a binding instrument on TNCs and human rights.
  • 100 governments participated in the 3rd Session of the OEIGWG – expanded from 65 governments at the 1st Session in 2015.
  • Thanks to strong lobbying, EU governments engaged with the process rather than obstructing negotiations.
  • The engagement of governments in OEIGWG was increased by Stop Corporate Impunity activities in March, June and October at UN side-events, contributions to plenaries and outside mobilizations.
The proposals of the International Peoples Treaty are made more concrete in order to develop more effective juridical strategies of resistance and access to justice.
  • The Stop Corporate Impunity network, facilitated by TNI, presented a draft proposal for a Treaty on Transnational Corporations and their Supply Chains  at the 3rd OEIGWG Session in Geneva in October 2017, based on wide-ranging consultation with social movements and CSOs in different global regions and finalized at an Expert Meeting.
  • The second Hearing of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal session on communities affected by TNCs in 7 countries in Southern Africa was held in Johannesburg in August.
The coalition of civil society organizations develops effective strategies to tackle corporate power.
  • Catalan Centre on Transnational Corporations (and potential International Peoples’ Centre on Corporate Impunity) received official support of the Catalan Parliament through a Resolution on 3 November 2016, with the City Council of Barcelona proposing financial support.
  • TNI developed factsheets with representatives of affected communities (MAB, Brazil and UDAPT, Ecuador) illustrating corporate impunity.
  • Improved media work in Spanish with articles in El Pais, Revista de la Jornada, and Publico.
Increased awareness on corporate capture of institutions of democracy.
  • Global Campaign began work on the issue of privatization of democracy, in particular with Brazilian, US, South African and European partners, developing a paper and organizing a dedicated workshop in October.

Highlights

  • Presentation of a draft proposal for a Treaty on Transnational Corporations and their Supply Chains at the 3rd OEIGWG Session in Geneva, October 2017 based on wide-ranging consultation with social movements and CSOs in different global regions and finalized with an Expert Meeting.
  • Formalization of the World Parliamentary Forum on the Binding Treaty – holding a Public Forum in Geneva and the publication of a Statement with 250 signatures of MPs and MEPs from 22 countries
  • Facilitation of attendance of delegates and affected communities from 44 countries  to attend the UN Human Rights Council 37th session and participation in the OEIGWG with Oral Interventions in the Plenary and participation in Side meetings.
  • Integration of 16 new movements and civil society organizations as members of the Global Campaign.
  • Facilitation and co-organization of the second Hearing of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal session on communities affected by TNCs in 7 countries in Southern Africa held in Johannesburg in August.
  • Initiation of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal process on the role of corporations in the violation of the Human Rights of Migrant and Refugee Peoples in Barcelona in July and in Palermo in December.

“We must end impunity for corporations that violate human rights or wreck our environment. The next Labour government will work to create a legally binding treaty to regulate global corporations, their subsidiaries and suppliers under international human rights law.”

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn)

Project in numbers

  • 16 new organizations joined the Global Campaign
  • Activists from 44 countries convened in Geneva to participate in and observe the proceedings of the UN Human Rights Council in October 2017.
  • 250 MPs and MEPs from 22 countries signed a statement on the formalization of the World Parliamentary Forum on the Binding Treaty.
  • 100 governments took part in the October 2017 3rd Session of the OEIGWG – expanded from 65 governments in the first Session in 2015.

Towards Accountability for TNCs

Lack of accountability for the violations of human rights and the rights of peoples and nature have become inherent in  the operations of transnational corporations (TNCs). Together with affected communities and social movements, TNI has advocated for binding regulations on TNCs with respect to human rights as the most effective way to address the current status quo of impunity. In the context of asymmetry of power between TNCs and states,  voluntary self-regulation as in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) has failed to effectively address corporate impunity. Such binding regulation is needed at international as well as the national level, given the wide-ranging nature of the economic and political power of corporations and the immensely negative effects on the lives of millions across the globe.

In its participation in the Global Campaign activities and mobilisations, as well as in the initiatives of the Treaty Alliance, TNI  contributed to significantly strengthening efforts to establish a binding international treaty for transnational corporations. Much of this involved advocacy with governments at the United Nations and specific country level, which saw the participation of 100 governments in the October 2017 3rd Session of the OEIGWG – expanded from 65 governments in the first Session in 2015.

TNI continued to play a coordinating role in the Week of People’s Mobilisation in Geneva which combined an inside and outside strategy. Inside the UNHRC, representatives of affected communities (for example from the UDAPT case on Chevron oil pollution in Ecuador; Amadiba crisis on threatened sand dune exploitation in Xolobeni in South Africa; and Mariana destruction of the river Doce with toxic dam collapse in Brazil)  spoke in plenary interventions and during side meetings together with other CSO delegates and experts. Outside, at the UNHRC entrance, delegates from different global regions engaged with their Swiss counterparts and the Swiss public in several workshops and also participated as speakers in street rallies and in a public forum held at the University of Geneva.

A modest proposal

In addition to the various side events and advocacy activities in Geneva, a highlight during the 3rd Session of the OEIGWG was the presentation of the draft proposal for a Treaty. As a member of the editorial team of the Global Campaign on the Binding Treaty Working Group, TNI played an important facilitation role in the whole process of crafting the text – which was formulated on the basis of a wide ranging international consultation. Inputs came from affected communities, social movements, trade unions, indigenous peoples, migrant and refugee peoples networks, women's movements and human rights networks. This was followed by an expert working meeting where the key articles of the Treaty text were articulated and then disseminated to the Global Campaign network for final consultation and endorsement.

The resulting publication – the Treaty on Transnational Corporations and their Supply Chains – marks a historic moment in the struggle against corporate impunity in being the first text articulating key proposals on advancing access to justice for affected communities. The proposals include: Binding Obligations for TNCs; Extra Territorial Obligations of States; Primacy of Human Rights over Trade & Investment Agreements & conditionalities of IFIs; Obligations of TNCs in the entire Global Supply Chain; International Tribunal on TNCs & mechanisms of enforcement; Rights of Affected Peoples.

The Proposal text and its key contents was shared to UN  governments in the frame of three side events, as well as bilateral meetings and interventions in the Plenary of the OEIGWG. The text serves as a basis for advocacy, and has helped all the partner organizations in their exchanges during the OEIGWG Plenary.

The Ecuador chairperson also presented the Elements of a Treaty document, which included some key points from the campaign’s proposal, representing the successful conclusion of this phase of the OEIGWG mandate. The lively debate on the floor of the UNHRC saw states like South Africa, Namibia, Palestine, Bolivia, Mozambique, Algeria, Cuba, Pakistan and Azerbaijan, among others, strongly supporting the proposed Elements document while others such as Russia, Mexico and Brazil raised some concerns.

On the other hand, the US announced that they were not interested in the Treaty as they would not be bound by it. The spokesperson for the EU member states continued to re-iterate opposition and to raise issues of procedure related to the mandate of the OEIGWG. Despite this controversy, the 3rd Session of the OEIGWG ended on track towards the negotiation of a Treaty on TNCs which is scheduled for the 4th Session of the OEIGWG in October 2018.

Building Core Alliances

The Global Campaign made significant progress over the course of 2017, in integrating new members, and in responding to Urgent Alerts on Human Rights and Environmental Rights Defenders and in building regional and international solidarity.

Significant to the expansion of the Global Campaign network in 2017  has been the participation and membership of international networks of trade union and health sectors – the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), Sud Solidaires Trade Union, and the Peoples Health Movement India have joined the Global Campaign network.

Some examples of networks that TNI has either joined, participated in, created or facilitated in the different global regions to raise the issues of corporate power & impunity include: the Jornadas Continentales contra el Neoliberalismo y por la Democracia (Montevideo, November 2017), the Forum on Trade & Investment, debt and corporate power (Buenos Aires, December 2017), the National Workshop for Human Rights Defenders on Business and Human Rights (Delhi, India, April 2017), the Asia Europe Peoples Forum (Brussels, April 2017), and the SAPSN (Southern Africa Peoples Solidarity Network) in Johannesburg.

The rapid expansion of the network, as well as the mobilisation of new members show how  TNI and the Global Campaign approach and strategy are perceived by key constituencies as effective and useful. It has also provided an opportunity to learn multiple new strategies, as well as to share accumulated knowledge and experience across network partners and sectors. TNI has played an active role in generating synergies between the Global Campaign and the human rights networks and CSOs in the broader NGO based Treaty Alliance. TNI has successfully contributed to raised awareness of the need for the Treaty, played a critical role in amplifying the voice of communities negatively impacted by disregard for human rights and environmental standards, and provided access for such communities to relevant UN forums.

Peoples Center on Corporate Impunity & Permanent People’s Tribunals

Communities affected by the operations of  Transnational Corporations (TNCs) have been persistent in demanding accountability and in seeking access to justice. TNI's work in this area has been focused in the further development of the People’s Center on Corporate Impunity – aiming to provide a comprehensive documentation on TNCs and to support communities and sectors preparing cases on TNCs.  The Peoples Center has been advanced  in partnership with the Permanent Peoples Tribunal. Affected communities have approached the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) to bring their case into the arena of public opinion not only to expose the operations of TNCs and their impact on livelihoods and the environment but to advocate proposals for the regulation of TNCs in relation to Human Rights.

In August 2017, communities from seven countries in  Africa (Zambia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe) partnered with TNI to prepare a second hearing of the PPT, and presented cases on land grabbing, mining and tax evasion and illicit financial flows  in Johannesburg. Besides being a space to hear the voices of farmers, peasants, women and their analysis and real life experiences, it also provided a basis for strengthening alliances and synergies among movements (e.g La Via Campesina, Justica Ambiental (Ja!), World March of Women, Rural Women's Assembly, Womin) and communities at a regional level. It is laying the basis for a region-wide campaign on the Right to Say No to destructive development & Yes to a peoples-led alternative economy.

Likewise,  the PPT in response to communities of migrant and refugee peoples created a moment for people to document their stories on the violation of their rights by TNCs implicated in forced displacement of livelihoods, contributing to extreme climate change, and in ongoing wars and militarisation of borders. They initiated a process to investigate the corporations  by participating in the Transnational Migrant Platform-Europe (TMP-E).

This PPT session was launched in Barcelona in July 2017 and the first Hearing took place in Palermo in December. It gave visibility to sustained and intensifying denial of rights to migrant and refugee peoples on hazardous  journeys of death and disappearance, encampment and slavery practice at the borders and continuing push-back of human and labour rights within Fortress Europe.


People

Brid Brennan
Project Coordinator

Monica Vargas
Coordinator of Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity

Gonzalo Berrón
Research Associate, Brazil

Katie Sandwell
Project Assistant

Benny Kuruvilla
Research Associate, India

Sol Trumbo Vila
Project officer

Susan George
President of TNI

David Fig
TNI Fellow,  South Africa


Major publications


Partners

International

  • Bi-regional Europe-Latin America and the Caribbean Enlazando Alternativas Network
  • CADTM International
  • FIAN International
  • Friends of the Earth International
  • People’s Health Movement
  • International Articulation of those Affected by Vale
  • La Via Campesina International
  • The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia
  • World March of Women
  • World Rainforest Movement
  • Global Forest Coalition (GFC)
  • International Association of Democratic Lawiers (IADL)

Regional

  • Amigos de la  Tierra América Latina y el Caribe – ATALC
  • CADTM – AYNA,  Americas
  • Focus on the  Global South, India/Thailand/Philippines
  • Hemispheric Social Alliance, Americas
  • Jubileo Sur Americas
  • Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo, Americas
  • Social Movements for an Alternative Asia
  • Red Lationamericana por el Acceso a Medicamentos
  • RIPESS – Europe
  • Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA)

Africa

  • African Women Unite Against Destructive Natural Resource Extraction (WoMin), South Africa
  • Alternative Information Development Center (AIDC), South Africa
  • Bench Marks Foundation, South Africa
  • Biowatch South Africa
  • Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), Zambia
  • Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
  • Groundwork – Friends of the Earth South Africa
  • JA! Friends of the Earth, Mozambique
  • La Via Campesina Africa
  • Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), South Africa
  • Rural Women's Assembly Africa
  • SEATINI, Zimbabwe

Americas

  • ATTAC Argentina
  • Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA)
  • Brazilian Network for the Integration of the Peoples (REBRIP)
  • CDHAL, Canada
  • CEDIB, Bolivia
  • Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra Colombia
  • Corporate Accountability International, US
  • Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras, Perú
  • Educational Assistance (FASE), Brazil
  • Federation of Organs for Social and Educational Assistance (FASE), Brazil
  • Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD), El Salvador
  • Grassroots Global Justice, United States of America
  • HOMA Institute, Brazil
  • Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) – Global Economy Project
  • Instituto Eqüit – Gênero, Economia e Cidadania Global, Brazil
  • Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul (PACS), Brazil
  • Justiça Global, Brazil
  • Mesa Nacional frente a Minería Metálica, El Salvador
  • Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB), Brazil
  • Movimiento Rios Vivos, Colombia
  • Observatorio Petrolero Sur (OPSur), Argentina
  • Polaris Institute, Canada
  • Red Muqui Sur, Peru
  • Terra de Direitos, Brazil
  • Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las Operaciones Petroleras de Texaco (UDAPT), Ecuador
  • Vigencia, Brazil

Asia (and Middle East)

  • Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), Philippines
  • Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippines
  • Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), Palestine
  • A Seed Japan (Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment and Development)
  • ATTAC, Morocco
  • Attac Japan
  • EU-Asean Trade network, South-East Asia
  • Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia

Europe

  • ATTAC France
  • ATTAC Spain
  • Centre Europe Tiers Monde (CETIM), Switzerland
  • Coordination Climat Justice Sociale, Switzerland
  • Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Belgium
  • Ecologistas en Acción-Ekologistak Martxan – Ecologistes en Acció, Spain
  • Ekologistak Martxan, Basque Country
  • Enginyeria sense Fronteras, Catalonia
  • Entrepueblos, Spain
  • France Amérique Latine (FAL), France
  • LAB, Euskal Herria
  • Milieudefensie – Friends of the Earth, Netherlands
  • Multiwatch, Switzerland
  • NOVACT, Spain
  • Observatório de la Deuda en la Globalización (ODG), Spain
  • Observatorio de Multinacionales en America Latina (OMAL), Spain
  • Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (RIDH), Switzerland
  • SolidaritéS, Switzerland
  • SOMO – Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, Netherlands
  • War on Want, United Kingdom

See full list on Stop Corporate Impunity website