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The complicity of some States with reference to the actions of transnational companies, in addition to the lack of access to the legal system by the victims, the adoption of investment protection and promotion agreements and the massive transfer of public funds to increase private profit are, among many others, some of the aspects identified by the Permanent Peoples Tribunal that was held on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.
The jury of this tribunal was made up by Juan Hernández Zubizarreta from the Basque Country; Francesco Batone and Roberto Schiattarella from Italia, Beverly Keene of the Jubilee South Network and Renata Reis from Brazil. The cases discussed by the tribunal involved transnational corporations Chevron-Texaco (US) Shell (UK, Netherlands), Glencore (Switzerland, UK).
Each case was given 30 minutes including presentations of photos and evidence by the witnesses coming from countries including Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, Palestine, Nigeria and El Salvador. After a long day, the Tribunal shared a preliminary ruling which was presented in a parallel event inside the 26th round of sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
It is precisely within this space that a proposal by the Ecuadorian government is being discussed. The proposal is supported by South Africa and 80 other countries and includes a binding treaty for corporations that violate human rights through their investments.
There has been enormous pressure in the last few hours to avoid the passing of this proposal at the end of this round of sessions on Friday, June 27. However, through parallel events, contacts with official delegations and mobilizations, the organizations gathered in the campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power believe there are possibilities to advance with this round of sessions.
The supporters of this international campaign, which has been ongoing for more than two years, stated that the United Nations itself had implemented spaces for control over transnational corporations, especially during periods when these operated and benefited from dictatorships in host countries.
However, today people speak of “corporate capture” to refer to the way these companies have increased their influence over national governments and multilateral organizations, becoming, as Godwin Ojo from Friends of the Earth Nigeria said “from regulated to regulators” of the decisions that affect communities and nations.
According to the declaration issued by the PPT in a press conference at the Geneva Press Club, in order to counteract the “architecture of impunity” around the behavior of companies, we need to create public control organizations to stop or try these corporations in criminal and civil courts. In addition, it is necessary to control their “corporate social responsibility” aims, often advertized, but rarely implemented.
The PPT thus recommended the UN HRC to create a treaty to control corporations and the host countries and countries of origin of these transnational companies to comply with their responsibilities and obligations in terms of their populations, communities and the environment.