Peoples Sovereignty versus the Architecture of Corporate Impunity and Governance

04 February 2016 - Event

In  today's world transnational corporations (TNCs) have asserted themselves as global entities, which exercise their power without any accountability that matches their economic and political influence. The panelists will assess the impact of a 2014 UNHRC initiative that would bind TNCs in terms of human rights and explore alternatives to the current neoliberal system of corporate impunity.

04 February 2016
International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) Kortenaerkade 12, 2518 AX The Hague, Netherlands

Chair: Dottie Guerrero, Transnational Institute (TNI)

The Panel will assess the significance of the highly contested historic initiative at the UNHRC in June 2014 which mandated an Open Ended Inter-governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) to develop a binding instrument on TNCs and other business enterprises in relation to human rights. This initiative puts back the issue of binding regulation on Corporations on the agenda of the UN where it had been banished for more than a decade. From the earliest stages, the initiative is strongly supported by governments from the Global South and fiercely opposed by EU member states and the US. However it is welcomed by affected communities and a growing number of social movements, CSOs and experts as bringing closer the prospects of ending impunity and delivering access to justice.

Over the last 40 years of neoliberal capitalism we have witnessed transnational corporations emerge as major global forces exercising unprecedented and unaccountable economic and political power. This power is expressed through accumulated wealth: 37 of the world’s 100 largest economies are corporations. TNCs operate in and seek to control major areas of human activity such as food production, land, natural resources, energy, water, health, public services and finance.They expand the further enclosure of the commons through a global resources grab, and act with widespread impunity despite the devastating social, economic and environmental impacts of their operations.

Furthermore, among the Top 25 corporations classified by revenue, 15 are linked to the fossil fuels industry, being accountable for the greenhouse gas emissions that bring the whole planet to environmental collapse through climate change.

Corporate impunity is ensured with the binding international frameworks of an architecture built on a Trade and Investment regime where agreements such as TTIP, CETA, TPP and TISA and the EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with Africa and other European & US FTAs with ASEAN and Latin & Central American countries. This framework of agreements provides instruments of corporate investor protection and privilege (ISDS) while denying protection to the public interest or peoples rights.

Another major feature of the power of TNCs is the corporate capture of state functions and democratic institutions, including the UN. This corporate capture is frequently promoted via multi-stakeholder bodies (multiple hybrid entities of state, corporations and civil society) – a strategy currently being strongly pushed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) via its Global Redesign Initiative (GRI), very ambitiously eroding the role of the state and placing corporations at the core of global governance.

To confront this situation, the social movements, networks and organisations participating in the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity, are building a Peoples Treaty Based on Peoples Sovereignty.This affirms an alternative vision on law and access to justice with the people as protagonists, political actors and originators of the laws and norms of a political, economic and legal system that aims to roll back the current framework of extraordinary privileges and impunity enjoyed by transnational corporations. This includes participation in the Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) established at the UNHRC to put in place a binding instrument on TNCs in respect of human rights.



Ambassador Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador Permanent Mission to the UN, Flavio Valente FIAN International, Brid Brennan Economic Justice Programme Transnational Institute, Alberto Villarreal, FOEI & REDES,Valter Bittencurt (TUCA/CUT).

Ambassador Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador Permanent Mission to the UN and Chair of the ongoing historic OEIGWG process at the UN will speak on the challenges faced in ensuring significant government participation towards putting in place a binding instrument on TNCs and other business enterprises in relation to human rights.

Flavio Valente, outgoing Secretary General of FIAN International will address the corporate capture of economic and political institutions in an aggressive push to replace the state multi-lateral system with diverse mechanisms of multi-stakeholderism which significantly erode the state role in government and places corporation at the center.

Brid Brennan who is leading TNI’s Corporate Power work, will introduce the networks of social movements and affected communities which bring a new protagonism to tackling the corporate architecture of impunity and are evolving strategies aimed to roll back the economic and political power of TNCs and make visible new practices of peoples sovereignty through mobilisation in the Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and the Treaty Alliance,

Valter Bittencurt, working with the Secretariat of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) and the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT-national Trade Union Center - Brazil brings a Trade Union perspective on the current challenges faced in campaigning for workers rights and human rights in the corporate world and why a global campaign is urgently needed.

Alberto Villarreal is leading FoEI's work on the international investments protection regime and its impacts, and is the regional Latin America and Caribbean coordinator of FoEI´s Economic Justice-Resisting Neoliberalism international program and will speak on the role of the Environment movements in building this new convergence of civil society on the Binding Treaty

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