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26 de junio de 2014 | | | | | |

“The United Nations seems a little bit more ours today”

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These were the words chosen by Real World Radio´s correspondent, Ignacio Cirio, to start his special report from Geneva, Switzerland, following his reporting of the big news: the United Nations Human Rights Council approved the creation of an intergovernmental group to create a binding treaty on corporations and human rights.

The countries that made history today voting in favor of the initiative promoted by Ecuador and South Africa were: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cote d´Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam.

This set the beginning “of a new stage of an old struggle, such as the one related to dismantling corporate power”, said our correspondent. “One of the limits civil society is trying to impose on corporations is that they are held responsible for their human rights violations in the territories of the South and that the States and countries of origin of these companies are held accountable for this behavior”, he added.

The mobilization week, organized in Geneva by representatives of organizations and social movements from different parts of the world, victims of the actions by the companies of several countries, started on Monday with a hearing by the non-binding Permanent People´s Tribunal. 12 cases of systematic violations of human rights by companies were presented. Some of them involved oil companies Chevron Texaco in Ecuador and Shell in Nigeria, Israeli water company Mekorot in Palestine and Swiss-English mining company Glencore Xstrata in seven countries.

Yesterday, participants in an “impunity tour” marched on the main offices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. The goal was to exert pressure so that the Human Rights Council would adopt the decision that now opened the doors for a process to reach a legal agreement establishing binding regulations for transnational companies in terms of human rights.

As part of his special report, Ignacio talked to activist Tom Kucharz of Ecologistas en Acción Spain, who referred to the new resolution as a “historic victory for social movements and the victims of systematic human rights violations by transnational companies”.

Kucharz believes that social mobilization and the resistance of organizations and communities affected by these violations were key for this victory. He said, in fact, that the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the UN HRC, Luis Gallegos, congratulated civil society and said that this goal could not have been achieved if it weren´t for the organizations´ pressure and mobilization.

“Now it will depend on continuing this mobilization”, said Kucharz to Real World Radio and added that the intergovernmental group will have two years to design what the binding regulations on human rights and transnational corporations will be.

The main concerns of social movements and organizations are related to the actions by the US and the European Union (EU). “Their behavior has been unacceptable, shameful, and they have really become accomplices of the serious crimes against humanity committed by transnational corporations”, Kucharz said regretfully. “And many other countries are still capable of weakening the actions of the intergovernmental group. We need to remain alert; we´ve had a partial victory, but mobilizations need to continue”, he added.

The member of Ecologistas en Acción analyzed the role played by some countries and blocs. “It was made clear which countries defend large companies and international banking, such as the US, the EU and Japan, and which defend the victims of abuses, such as the 20 countries that voted in favor of the resolution”.

Kucharz also said that the EU tried to delay the voting and took the opportunity to threaten some countries with taking from them, for instance, official development aid if they voted in favor of the initiative. And this was effective for some countries, which went from supporting the proposal to not supporting it. “The US and the EU have confirmed their disregard for international law”, said the activist.

He also regretted the abstention of almost all Latin American countries. Civil society expected more support from some states of UNASUR (Union of South American States) and ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America).

Meanwhile, BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) supported the initiative except for Brazil (abstained).

Kucharz highlighted the joint work by groups such as Friends of the Earth International, the Transnational Institute and La Via Campesina, to name a few, which have been building networks between the communities in resistance, the victims and social organizations.

He also highlighted the work carried out by the Treaty Alliance (http://www.treatymovement.com/), that brings together numerous organizations struggling for the realization of this binding agreement on transnational corporations and human rights. The activist also made reference to the role of the world campaign to “Dismantle corporate power” (http://www.stopcorporateimpunity.org/).

Imagen: Víctor Barro - Friends of the Earth Spain

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