The EU and the corporate impunity nexus
For decades, affected communities around the globe have been resisting the modus operandi of transnational corporations (TNCs) in their territories and workplaces and documenting systemic human rights violations and the track record of corporate impunity with their lives and their deaths. Corporate impunity is embedded in and protected by an ‘architecture of impunity’ that legitimises and legalises the operations of TNCs. This architecture has been established through free trade and investment agreements, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other financial instruments and the aggressive push for public-private partnerships (PPPs). At the core of this architecture is the infamous investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, a private arbitration system that allows TNCs to sue states whenever they consider that their future profits are threatened by new measures or policies aiming at improving social and environmental protection. Thus, it neutralises the function of the state, whose primary responsibility is to defend public interest and protect the well-being of its citizens and the planet from corporate interests.
Furthermore, the development of multi-stakeholderism has provided a framework that enables TNCs to usurp core political roles in democratic institutions. The role of TNCs in the workings of the UN system is becoming increasingly pervasive, especially since the creation of the Global Compact and the corporate-funded UN Foundation and as can clearly be seen in the current round of negotiations on bindings obligations for TNCs at the United Nations (UN).