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Many social movements and organizations demonstrated in Bali, Indonesia and in Geneva, Switzerland, against corporate capture at the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks and the UN human rights system. They also demanded legally binding rules to punish transnational corporations for their crimes.
These groups are part of the international campaign “Dismantle Corporate Power and End Impunity”, launched in June of 2012 at the Peoples’ Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in parallel to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. When it was launched, the campaign had the support of over a hundred social movements and organizations from around the world.
Some of the groups that comprise the campaign include: the Transnational Institute (TNI), the Corporate Europe Observatory, Focus on the Global South, the Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations, Friends of the Earth International, ATTAC France, Ecologistas en Accion, Polaris Institute and Biowatch.
The campaign issued a press release on Tuesday where activist Lyda Forero of TNI said: “Today in Bali, as governments gather for the WTO Ministerial negotiations, hundreds of activists from around the world are taking to the streets to denounce the free trade system that has facilitated corporate profit while undermining laws that protect environmental and human rights from corporate abuse. […] people have shown that there are real alternatives, and have expressed the need for binding regulations instead of more destructive trade deals and corporate collusion with governments and institutions.”
The press release also claims that “As well as dominating trade negotiations, corporations have also succeeded in capturing the UN Business and Human Rights Forum which takes place from 2 to 4 December in Geneva. Several Transnational Corporations (TNCs) such as Vale, Rio Tinto, Barrick Gold Corporation and others are not only actively participating, but are working with the UN to maintain voluntary guidelines based on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)”.
“These are non-binding norms, that have no enforcement mechanisms and are based on TNCs own reporting of their supposedly responsible performance, while corporate crimes and human rights abuses are systematic, as shown in the Rana Plaza (Bangladesh) and Marikana (South Africa) tragedies” said activist Juan Hernandez from Hegoa Institute, Basque Country. “Corporate Social Responsibility and non-binding codes have allowed corporations to operate with impunity. For decades, TNCs lobby on the institutions of the Human Rights system continuously dismantled several initiatives to set a binding Treaty and International Court to judge corporate crimes.
The abuses that victims are suffering across the globe reaffirm the urgency of such a Treaty and Court” added Professor Hernandez.
In early 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched the Global Compact LEAD in Davos, Switzerland. It is a platform comprising many corporations that claim to lead in the implementation of social and environmental sustainability. The companies are also part of the UN Global Compact, a voluntary initiative where corporations commit to adapt their strategies and operations to ten universally accepted principles around four thematic areas: human rights, labor standards, environment and anti-corruption.
Some of the corporations that were part of the Global Compact LEAD from the beginning are: Nestle, Coca Cola, Siemens, Shell, Total, Unilever, Endesa and BBVA. Several of them have faced serious accusations and even lawsuits over human rights violations and pollution in different parts of the world.
To respond to the growing corporate capture of international institutions, social movements, networks and organizations from the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity, are building an International Peoples’ Treaty that “will affirm an alternative vision from the people on law and justice” and in which “the people are the protagonists, political actors and originators of the laws and norms of a political, economic and legal system that will end the current framework of extraordinary privileges and impunity enjoyed by transnational corporations.”
Richard Girard from the Polaris Institute in Canada affirmed that “we will continue mobilizing until these binding norms are in place and until communities and people who have endured corporate crimes are compensated”.
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