Saturday, 23 September 2023 01:28 GMT

Corporations that abuse human rights are a threat to SDGs and our planet

(MENAFN- Daily Outlook Afghanistan) One of the majorprocesses at the United Nations (UN) that gives hope for a better tomorrowwhere 'no one is left behind is the UN binding treaty on transnationalcorporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights.
History is marredwith examples how transnational trade and businesses kept profit over people.Domestic laws and legal frameworks failed to hold abusive transnationalcorporations to account for not just human rights abuses but also forenvironmental damages (often irreparable loss like that of biodiversity). Thatis why we urgently need strong legally binding mechanisms globally to end allforms of corporate capture.
Governments need towalk the talk on the promise of sustainable development where 'no one is leftbehind. When corporate power undermines democracy and democratic processes, alarge number of people are left to deal with a range of injustices,inequalities and abuses, as well as, climate crisis deepens which furtherexacerbates the impact on the poor people.
This week UNInter-governmental Working Group (IGWG) is discussing a global binding treatyon 'transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect tohuman rights.
Interest in thisprocess continues to grows as evidenced in the significant presence ofgovernment delegations, civil society and elected officials worldwide. 321members of regional and national parliaments, as well as municipal authoritieshave endorsed the Call of People's Representatives Worldwide for the UN BindingTreaty.
Charles Santiago,Member of the Parliament of Malaysia stated, 'Prices of medicines are very highand people are dying because of that. This is a consequence of the monopoliescontrolled by transnational corporations. The emerging movement for UN bindingregulations to tackle power of transnational corporations, is encouraging forall of us.
Delegates from over40 countries representing communities affected by transnational corporations'human rights violations, social movements, trade unions and civil societyorganisations are speaking up too. These are the voices of affected people thatshould be in the centre of these negotiations.
Tchenna Maso from LaVia Campesina (Movement of affected by Dams) in Brazil, said, We are concernedabout the content of the revised draft text presented for discussion this weekbecause it does not reflect many of our key concerns and proposals. Inparticular, the treaty needs a primary focus on transnational corporations, asindicated in the original resolution 26/9, to address the corporate impunity wesee in the world.
Kea Seipato,Coordinator of the Southern African section of the Global Campaign to ReclaimPeoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity, stressedthat, 'The people of Southern Africa are calling for a self-determineddevelopment and are demanding a Treaty that will ensure that. They are callingfor the ‘Right to Say No' to the plunder of their resources by transnationalcorporations.
Pablo Fajardo,representative of the Union of People Affected by Chevron in Ecuador, said,'International financial systems and multinationals have captured theEcuadorian State over the last two years. That is why a binding treaty isneeded, which returns sovereignty to peoples and states. But it is also clearto us that a UN binding treaty that is not accompanied by sustained socialaction will not be effective - as exemplified by recent events in Ecuador overthe past ten days.

Karin Nansen, chairof Friends of the Earth International said: 'Environmental and human rightsdefenders are on the frontline of resisting the violations committed bytransnational corporations, enduring systematic attacks of intimidation, silencingand killings. The historical importance of this binding treaty process to end,once and for all, the impunity of transnational corporations and guaranteeaccess to justice for those affected cannot be overemphasized.
Recently activistsperformed in front of the Palais de Nations representing how transnationalcorporations use Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms (ISDS) to suegovernments that implement regulations to protect labour standards or theenvironment. The action is part of a tour traveling from Geneva to Vienna,where today the UN Trade Commission UNCITRAL begin negotiations on a reform ofthe ISDS system. Dr Thomas Köller from Attac Germany remarked, 'We call on theEuropean governments and the European Union (EU) to participate constructivelyin the negotiations on the UN Binding Treaty. In Vienna the EU must withdrawits push for a Multilateral Investment Court.
This is not thefirst time where countries globally have joined hands against corporate abuse.More than a decade back in global tobacco treaty negotiations, despite tobaccoindustry tactics to water down this treaty process, governments agreed to stoptobacco industry interference in public health policy. This treaty, formallycalled the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control(WHO FCTC), has two backbone Articles that potentially empowers governments tobetter implement life saving public health laws: Article 5.3 of this treaty,guidelines of which were adopted in November 2008 by governments, recognizes inits preamble that there is a direct and irreconcilable conflict of interestbetween tobacco industry and public health policy. Article 19 of this treatywhich is being worked upon by governments is to hold tobacco industry legallyand financially liable for the damages it has caused. I have been part of everyglobal tobacco treaty negotiations so far (Conference of the Parties to the WHOFCTC) as an observer (part of Corporate Accountability led Network forAccountability of Tobacco Transnationals team). Tobacco industry interferencein global tobacco treaty is a stark reminder why we need laws and policies inplace to not let abusive corporations interfere with health and developmentpolicy making.
Only 135 months areleft for 193 governments to deliver on promise of sustainable development goals(SDGs). Conflict of interest of several transnational corporations with healthand development policies is stark enough to raise alarm for stronger action tomake strict legally binding rules and laws against it. It is vital to protectsustainable development policy making from corporate capture. As thousands andmillions echoed last month during climate strike, there is no planet-B.


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