Standing with 90,000 people against corporate power


13 October 2016

Today a petition from over 90,000 European citizens will be delivered to decision makers across the continent. These tens of thousands of signatures are demanding that EU leaders take part in the upcoming UN Human Rights Council's session on establishing an international binding treaty that will end the impunity enjoyed by transnational corporations once and for all.    

The fact that so many people have been motivated by the possibility of controlling corporations shows that many are fed up living in a world where the power of corporations has reached a level never before seen in human history. Many have resources so large that they dwarf those of states. Of the 100 wealthiest economic entities in the world today, 69 are now corporations and only 31 countries*. This is up from 63 to 37 a year ago.

Here in the UK, where the petition was delivered to Downing Street this morning, we see corporate power play out through ever more functions of society being handed over to for-profit private companies. Most big infrastructure now lies in the hands of a tiny plutocratic elite, the running of schools and health services are gradually being taken over by multinationals, and private security firms carry out ever more police and border-control services. Meanwhile, our government is looking to tie us in to trade deals like Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that establish parallel judicial systems allowing corporations access to their own forms of justice via shady corporate tribunals only accessible to the rich.

The power of corporations is so great within our society that they have undermined the idea that there is any other way to run society. We are all too familiar with hearing about the threat of ‘losing corporate investment’ or companies ‘taking their business somewhere else’ as if the government’s number one task is to attract corporate investment.

From Sports Direct being exposed for its slave-like working conditions to BP’s oil spill devastating people’s homes, it is these almost daily stories of corporations violating people’s rights that has got so many fed up.  

What this treaty offers is the idea that there is another way to organise society. It offers the possibility of withdrawing the privileges that corporations have gained in recent decades. The treaty offers an opportunity to hold corporations to account and ensure that they are not above the law, inspiring the idea that power can be taken back by people.

In order to realise this possibility we have to make sure that the treaty remains absolutely binding, we must ensure that corporations are not allowed to turn this into a voluntary initiative. We need the treaty to have enforceable laws that oblige all governments to hold their corporations to account for their impacts on people and the planet, wherever in the world they operate. The treaty will also need to establish the personal legal responsibility of company executives, managers and directors in order to ensure that individuals are held accountable for their decisions and the resulting crimes of their companies.

This is what we want to see our government discuss at the October talks. Well known for its cosy relationship with corporations, however, the UK has so far refused to take part in this UN treat process. We are hoping that they listen to the thousands of people who want to see their government make the most of this opportunity to provide genuine protection for the victims of human rights abuses committed by multinational corporations.

* These figures have been taken from a direct comparison of the annual revenue of corporations and the annual revenue of countries. Sources: CIA World Factbook 2015 and Fortune Global 500.

Blog

Ten great podcasts on activism, movements and social change


18 August 2017

Podcasts present an amazing opportunity to look into so many of the dim and distant corners of movement history. This is a selection of ten inspiring podcasts that we've been checking out documenting some wonderful moments of activism, movements and social change that will hopefully inspire listeners in the present day.

Time to step up our campaign to make sure Scotland’s voice is heard on trade deals


17 August 2017

Here in Scotland, it’s vital that our politicians understand that areas devolved to the Scottish parliament, such as environment, food safety, health and workers rights could be threatened by the UK government’s new trade deals. 

Things I was never told about the partition of India


15 August 2017

Today marks the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from colonial Britain. Flags in both India and Pakistan fly high to commemorate the end of colonial rule.