On a “binding treaty” for TNCs, and why people’s grassroots actions remain key: Page 2 of 2

Posted on 9 June 2018

instruments that could check on corporate power are welcome. But challenges at negotiation-level are only the beginning. Should the treaty successfully enter into force, the means to implement it and the means to monitor state practice against their commitments – these would be open questions. How much policy space states are willing to allow for regulation is also an important question, especially since this would mean shifting their economic policy. For decades, the trend has been towards opening up to corporations or “the private sector.”

Upholding peoples’ sovereignty

With some exceptions, governments and economic development planners in the global North and alarmingly so in the South have had decades of following the neoliberal policy track – liberalising the economy to “foreign investment,” privatising sectors such as social services, and loosening regulation of corporate activities. Corporate impunity in the global South, as we know it, has become a norm through governments that favour – or are captured by – foreign and domestic elite interests.

Peoples and their organisations should keep in mind that grassroots and collective assertions remain essential not just to address TNC rights violations, but to hold elite-led states accountable as well – whatever outcome may result in the current negotiations for a binding treaty.

Addressing the long-time complicity of states and TNCs

To government-licensed mining plunder of TNCs, indigenous peoples have had and should continue to assert their right to self-determination and ancestral domains. In the face of corporations’ tax holidays and low wages in special economic zones, workers assert their right to just wages, employment and their unions. With governments signing “free trade” agreements that favour big agricultural and chemical corporations, farmers assert rights to their land.

Peoples will have to assert their rights and sovereignty, towards pushing their states to review and reject policies that entrench foreign and domestic elites, and assert their voices in development planning processes. With continuing conversations today not just on corporate impunity but also on inequality, rising corporate power, free trade agreements, the Agenda 2030, and the slow rejection of neo-liberalism, these are ever more important towards any people-centred development agenda. ###

[iii] Quintos, Paul. 2017. “Notes on Monopoly Capital in the 21 st Century.” In Lenin’s ‘Imperialism’ in the 21 st Century. Manila: Institute of Political Economy.


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