Message from the Presidency to the Opening Session on the Role of Transnational Corporations in Southern Africa

16 August 2016

The opening message from the presidency of The Southern Africa Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) focused on The Role of Transnational Corporations in Southern Africa. The PPT on Transnational Corporations takes place in Manzini, Swaziland on 16th and 17th August 2016. During the two-day session, 10 communities from Southern Africa will present their cases to a plenary of respected jurors.

It is my great honour to present this brief message on behalf of the Presidency of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal to the Opening Session on the role of Transnational Corporations in Southern Africa, and it is my deep regret not to be able to present it in person.

The topic you will be addressing over the next two days is of fundamental importance for all of humanity – indeed, the issues to be discussed go right to the heart of the survival of humanity and indeed of planet Earth.

In your petition to the PPT to hold this Session, you spoke of “the deficient economic and political model that is currently dominating Southern Africa” and you went on to say that “corporations are exploiting our destinies, natural heritage and human rights, dismantling public services, destroying the commons and endangering food sovereignty in every corner of the continent. They have created a blanket of impunity, and as a result, peoples’ rights have been systematically violated, the Earth and its resources destroyed, pillaged and contaminated, and resistance criminalized, while corporations continue to get away with committing economic and ecological crimes across the continent.”

We know, of course, that this dire situation is being faced not only in your continent, but right across the globe -- from the tropical belt to the poles, rainforests, deserts, productive lands, urban settlements, animals, insects, plants and even the oceans and the atmosphere are being ravaged and poisoned for the sake of enrichment of the few at the expense of the many.

Since its foundation in 1979, the PPT has held 42 sessions and judgments, in which it has accompanied the transformations and struggles of the post-colonial period, the development of economic neo-colonialism, globalization, the resurgence of war and the International Criminal Court’s declaration of non-competence for economic crimes.

In recent years the PPT has paid particular attention to the need to stand together with communities wishing to challenge and resist degradation and destruction, such as that you are bringing forward today, providing a venue and support not only for the public airing of such grievances but for the adjudication by panels of peoples’ jurors of the matters raised.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Peoples’ Rights, issued in Algiers in 1976. This was one of the sources of inspiration from which the PPT emerged as an ongoing permanent organisation through which to continue to carry forward the work begun with the Russell Tribunals on Vietnam (1966-67) and Latin America (1973-76).

Lelio Basso, who had been a member and speaker at Algiers, proposed that these celebrated tribunals be transformed into a permanent institution that could become an instrument and platform to give recognition, visibility and a voice to the peoples suffering violations of their fundamental rights, victims who, according to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples, proclaimed in Algiers in 1976, were marginalized in international law, which had increasingly become the guarantor of the interests of the public and private holders of political and economic powers.

It is in this spirit that the Presidency of the PPT brings warm greetings to the Opening Session on the role of Transnational Corporations in Southern Africa in which you, the representatives of the peoples of Southern Africa, will be the protagonists.. We look forward to hearing the results of the Session and the recommendations for future action.

Helen Jarvis, one of the PPT Vice-Presidents 16 August 2016