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July 2014 – Past and present human rights violations by transnational corporations (TNCs) demand urgent and drastic action. Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza disaster where 1,132 textile workers (mostly women) were killed; the death of 34 miners in Marikana (South Africa) in 2012; the destruction caused for decades by Shell in Ogoniland (Nigeria) and by Chevron in the Ecuadorian Amazon are some of many examples of the urgent need for the victims to access justice and compensation.
On June 26th, 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution to set up an intergovernmental working group in charge of drafting a legally binding instrument for transnational corporations to respect human rights. After a long discussion, twenty member states of the Council, which represent a population of nearly 3.8 billion people, voted for a historic resolution. Human rights defenders and the communities affected by transnational corporations, together with social movements and networks played a key role in this victory.
In the light of previous attempts to set up a legally binding instrument on human rights for transnational corporations, the intergovernmental process to draft a broad treaty on corporations and human rights will be a long one, entailing confrontation with corporate power. This is a battle that social movements, human rights defenders and the communities affected are committed to fight. The Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power – a network of social movements, organizations, campaigns and affected communities – is determined to step up the mobilization to create a counter-balance to impact the content and scope of application of the intergovernmental Treaty.
Social movements, networks and organizations that make up the campaign to dismantle corporate power and to end impunity are drafting a Peoples’ International Treaty  that will include an alternative bottom-up vision of law and justice. The Peoples’ International Treaty puts people at the front. They will discuss with political actors to agree on laws destined to challenge the current legal framework that grants benefits and impunity to transnational corporations. Even though a “treaty” is defined as a document signed by States, from this perspective, the peoples, beyond the States, can make laws: we defend the idea of a “bottom-up” international law.
From this radical and subversive perspective we are determined to overcome the lack of imagination and political will of those who claim that a binding treaty for transnational corporations is not possible. The Peoples’ Treaty, which represents the political view from the bottom, supplements the intergovernmental binding instrument to be discussed at the HRC. The Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power welcomes the resolution, which enables the move forward from a voluntary, non-binding framework to a legal and legitimate system that will give access to justice to the victims of human rights violations by corporations.
As part of this initiative, a Week of Mobilization to Stop Corporate Crimes and Impunity was organized (from June 23 to 27, in Geneva, Switzerland) by social movements, networks and civil society organizations that comprise the Treaty Alliance. Several events were organized on the week of the HRC’s 26th session, when the council had planned a discussion and vote to decide on whether there would be a process to create a legally binding instrument for transnational corporations that violate human rights. The week of mobilization was a landmark moment for social movements and civil society organizations who made a joint effort to move towards a more efficient process to protect human rights from the violations by transnational corporations, especially with regards to the rights of people affected by environmental crimes and other human rights abuses by corporations.
The week of mobilization not only aimed to put pressure on the HRC to vote for a legally binding regulation for corporations, but it also aimed to expose the “global political and economic architecture of impunity”, which has protected the operations of TNCs to the detriment of human rights for decades. This political, economic and legal system was made possible by the following mechanisms: the Investment Protection Treaties (IPT); the arbitration through Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanisms at the ICSID (a World Bank agency); the World Trade Organization, which also has a dispute settlement mechanism; the IMF’s structural adjustment programs, which have been applied in Europe by the troika and the Competitiveness Pact; multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the EU-Colombia free trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).
The Week of Mobilization combined internal and external strategies in Geneva and in different capital cities through constant lobbying. The activities included a session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT); the launching of a framework report for the Peoples’ Treaty, as well as the Global Consultation Process; some “side events” at the United Nations; meetings with delegates of member states; a press conference, a conference on human rights, sustainable food systems and extraterritorial obligations, as well as a demonstration outside the UN building, which included a guided tour to key places in Geneva where corporations and related organizations, such as the WTO, are based.
The Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power co-organized a session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) on Monday, 23rd June. There, representatives of affected communities testified about the terrible impacts of decades of oil pollution by Chevron in the Ecuadorian Amazon  and of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria. Others exposed human rights violations by Coca-Cola in Colombia; by Israeli water company Mekorot in Palestine ; and by Spanish corporation Hidralia in Guatemala. Other companies tried by the tribunal include Canadian mining corporation Pacific Rim Mining/Oceana Gold Corporation in El Salvador, and British company Lonmin in South Africa. The case of English-Swiss corporation Glencore Xstrata was considered emblematic due to the extent of the damage caused by its operations, demonstrated by the testimonies of communities affected by the company in Peru, Colombia, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Philippines, which showed how the company operates with absolute impunity all over the world. All the cases heard by the tribunal showed the lack of access to justice by the victims of intimidation, persecution, murder and environmental damage.
The PPT hearing comes after three sessions organized by the biregional network Linking Alternatives, which has submitted 46 cases of human rights violations by European corporations in Latin America. The Geneva hearing exposed the actions of TNCs, the complicity of governments in the abuses, as well as a global legal, economic and political system that favours the impunity of corporations. The hearing also linked to other processes, such as the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal in Mexico and Canada, the preparations for the next PPT in South Africa, as well as one about sweatshops in Asia, and a Tribunal on Nature Rights that is organized in parallel to the COP 20 on Climate Change in Peru (in December of this year).
These political processes, led by social movements, show that the struggle for an alternative legal framework is related to a broader and more essential instrument to get rid of the corporate regime; with the defense of peoples’ sovereignty and the reclamation of common goods, as well as public goods from the hands of corporations.
Let’s end the impunity of Transnational Corporations!
Dismantle corporate power!
 The framework document of the Peoples’ International Treaty, as well as the global consultation associated with it were launched during the week of mobilization.
 The case of Chevron in Ecuador shows the need for a legally binding treaty. After 20 years of litigation characterised by disputes over the jurisdiction, the 30,000 people affected by the corporation won a case against the company before the Supreme Court of Ecuador. However, Chevron refuses to pay the compensation ordered by the court in a show of total disregard for the Ecuadorian judiciary.
 In the context of the bombings against the Palestinian territory, the “water apartheid” imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel and its water transnational corporation Mekorot is another proof of the crimes against humanity committed by the state of Israel. The global campaign expresses its solidarity with the Palestinian people and its fight against the military occupation, the escalation of violence against innocent civilians and the transnational corporations that benefit from this.
En esta edición, el programa conjunto mensual de la Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC-Vía Campesina) y Amigos de la Tierra de América Latina y Caribe repasa las acciones realizadas en todo el continente en el marco de la Jornada Continental de Defensa de la Democracia y contra el Neoliberalismo: Dominicana, Paraguay, Perú, Brasil, Panamá y Uruguay, presentes.
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