Binding Treaty to Regulate Corporate Power is Essential for a Better Tomorrow: Statement of member organizations of the Treaty Alliance in response to the COVID-19 crisis

In International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

We, the undersigned organizations, all members of the Treaty Alliance are concerned by the challenging situation generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social impact of the measures adopted to contain the contagion, including its differential impact on women. We wish to express our solidarity to those particularly affected by the disease and the lockdown measures, the millions of marginalised people who are at the intersection of multiple situations of vulnerability and for whom physical distancing mitigation is not an option.

COVID-19 patently confirms the analysis that we have collectively produced over the years. The extreme risks and threats that our societies are confronted with in facing the pandemic today are closely connected to the failures of our economic, political and social systems to realize human rights and environmental protection. For several years now, we have been disclosing the structural pathogenesis of a financialised globalization that has aggravated inequalities within and between countries, in the context of the intergovernmental negotiations for the Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, currently underway under the auspices of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Our societies are ill-equipped to respond to the pandemic, due to a range of significant failures that deregulated globalization adjustment plans and concentrated corporate power over the last decades.

Limitless resource grabbing has broken the borders between ecosystems, leading to viruses naturally hosted in animals to transit into human beings.

Market-solutions and the processes of privatization imposed on the public health, care and social protection sectors have significantly contributed to the weakening of public health, care and social protection even in countries equipped with national health systems, which has dramatically caused the lack of preparedness and insufficient capacity of most national responses to the dire health needs triggered by the pandemic.

The industrialization and globalization of food systems has reduced local food producers’ capacity to make healthy food available to nourish people locally, while ultra-processed food increases people’s vulnerability to COVID-19, both from the health and financial perspective. It’s a cruel reality that in the midst of a looming food crisis, agricultural production by local farmers – those who provide between the 70 and 80% of healthy food worldwide- has been sacrificed due to lockdown measures. On the other hand, contagion mitigation measures in most countries have worked in the interest of the big agri-food chains, which offered no comparative advantage from a risk management point of view.

Global labour flexibilization has increased the amount of informal workers whose precariousness is today the collateral pandemic of COVID-19. This is especially affecting women, who are majority in the most precarious, “flexible” and tertiary jobs. Domestic workers as well as jobs in the trade and services sectors are highly feminised, which adds up to the current gender pay gap. Millions of them have lost their incomes since the beginning of the outbreak, which is dramatically worsening their personal, family and community life conditions. Where no social welfare is in place, millions of formal and informal workers are sliding into poverty or extreme poverty.

The digitalization of education in the lockdown, with only private facilities available and only for those who can pay for the technologies drastically excludes the many children from families unable to cover matriculation costs and the costs of the tools used for teaching activities in this emergency. Simultaneously, it puts a heavier care burden on women. Even in those countries where there is public access, the general assumption is that women will be at home taking care of the children and providing support for families during lockdown. Data available at national level provide increasing evidence that the technological option to replace teaching in presence is an additional driver of exclusion in view of the unaddressed digital divide and crisis of care.

The priority given by certain governments to war preparedness and military expenditures in their national budgets, including through support to a “never in crisis” weapons industry, has diverted immense resources to the defence sector, thereby structuring national budgets and industrial sectors according to needless priorities. Due to capture of the States’ corporations, the weapons industry, the extractive industry and other major industries, existing policies are harming us and infringing upon our human rights.

Through exploitation, dispossession and direct abuses of human and environmental rights, and corporate capture of public policy making, corporate power is now working to maintain a dominant economic system that prioritizes company profits over the realization of human rights. This strategy has not only exposed States’ weakened or non-existing production capacity for the range of health tools needed to contain the spread of the disease at home, but it has also tragically endangered States’ capacity and financial availability to adequately respond to the needed social expenditures and transferences on a massive scale.

Governments have difficult choices to make in these unprecedented times, largely as a legacy of much abusive corporate behavior that States have been neither able  nor willing to govern, notwithstanding its adverse impact on human and environmental rights. The scale of corporate control over government is an endemic source of pathogenesis, whose inefficiency has finally been brought to the fore as a point of non-return by the COVID-19 global outbreak, in favour of a societal quest for reclaiming the responsibility of public services.  But we are not there, yet.

Some witnesses from different communities in our movement have reported that companies engaged in extractive projects abuse lockdowns to skip informed consent provisions.  Others have explained how middle men are taking advantage of the health crisis to pay small food producers less while increasing prices in the cities, with the excuse of the lockdown. Other groups have disclosed the bias of national pandemic measures largely favoring the agro-industry and its distribution channels, while the support offered to peasants is mostly through private insurance schemes. Abuses of the rights of agricultural workers include shift extensions, combined with total negligence regarding poor housing, inadequate food and sanitary conditions, in violation of physical distancing measures imposed by governments. Mass dismissals of workers have also been reported by our members in several countries.

While information is an essential precondition for the exercise of any right, in the wake of COVID-19 a number of tech companies have seen a surge in their business during this crisis. Some have already obtained an enormous amount of users’ personal data, which can track people and infringe on their right to privacy. In contrast, due to policies largely influenced by corporations, the right to access information is being restricted or suspended. This creates a major obstacle in access to remedy for people whose rights are being infringed.

The ground for testing the will and the power of governments vis-a-vis the corporate sector in the context of COVID-19 is coming soon with regard to access to essential health goods and equipment – vaccines, medicines and all other medical devices – that will be developed and produced to control and fight the new coronavirus. Pharmaceutical companies have arguably taken steps in countries to benefit from the current race to the cure against COVID-19 already (cfr. Gilead orphan drug request to FDA), and they are using their massive corporate power to oppose governments’ measures to smoothen patent exception procedures in countries, as well as any other collective intergovernmental initiative to develop and produce vaccines and medicines as global public goods, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The dominant economic system allows large corporations to allocate a significant amount of funding to mitigate the impacts of lockdown measures and the looming economic crisis on their profit-making. In this setting, corporations are influencing international and national legislative and policy decisions to benefit their profit margins.

The many irrefutable lessons from COVID-19 lead us all to one converging direction, namely the importance of introducing and advancing legal frameworks, at the national, regional and international levels, to ensure corporate accountability with respect to human and environmental rights. In this much needed global effort to overcome a system of deregulation and advance governments’ standard- setting capacity, the negotiation process around the Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and Other Business Enterprises (OBEs) with respect to human rights must continue. Ultimately, with the new normal, we need new norms. We need legally binding arrangements through which the right to social protection and healthcare, the right to food and water, the right to education and employment, the right to a healthy environment, right to information, right to privacy, the right to freedom of assembly are properly addressed, promoted, and protected by the State, as key elements for the transformative change we want to see towards substantive democracy and sustainable development. If we are serious about the Agenda 2030, a legally binding instrument to regulate corporate power is the concrete step we need in order to move in the direction of justice, the rule of law, and true sustainability for all; the best vaccine to prevent pandemics like the current one.

Nothing will be the same, it is often said. But change will not happen by itself.  This means that COVID-19 offers an extraordinary opportunity for embracing communities’ expertise and social movements’ knowledge into shaping the new societies where the planet’s rights and human dignity prevail over corporate profit.  After COVID-19, the active participation of grassroots communities, social movements and civil society organizations in the Binding Treaty process and in any similar normative route at national or regional level is of even greater relevance. These are the people who at the end will have suffered the most from the pandemic, not just in terms of their health. These are the people who will have accompanied and supported those in greater needs during the pandemic. These are the people who will know best the impact of removing the ground rules of a disciplined society in a scenario of mounting inequalities, tragically fuelled by the impact of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis tells us that we need societies in which effective accountability mechanisms are in place.  Therefore, we urge all national authorities, and particularly the member States’ delegations of the Human Rights Council, to make all efforts possible to continue advancing towards the adoption of a Binding Instrument on Transnational Companies and OBEs, strengthening the diplomatic route and ensuring effective participation of those actors that truly pursue democracy, accountability and the public interest.

These processes should pave the way to building a new normality in which present and future generations can enjoy the results of States’ commitments enshrined in the bill of rights and in our national constitutions.

  •  Accion Ecologica, Ecuador
  •  ActionAid International
  • African Centre for Biodiversity
  • African Coalition for Corporate Accountability
  • Agora of the Earth’s Inhabitants
  • AITEC
  • Al-Haq
  • Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa
  • ÀLTSEAN-Burma
  • AMDH ( Association Marocaine des Droits Humains)
  •   Amis de la Terre France
  •   APDHE-Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos España
  •   Association Centre Europe- Tiers Monde Cetim
  •   Association For Promotion Sustainable Development
  •   Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  •   Associazione di Studi e Informazione sulla Salute Italia
  •   ATTAC España
  •   ATTAC France
  •   Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
  •   BADIL
  •   Brazil Humanidade
  •   BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany)
  •   Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  •   Campanya Catalunya No als Tractats de Comerç i Inversió
  •   Campaña No a los Tratados de Comercio e Inversión
  •   CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  •   Cecilia Cherrez
  •   Center for Peace Education & Community Development
  •   Centre for Health Science and Law
  •   Centre for human rights and development
  •   Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo SJ” (CSMM)
  •   Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos – Peru EQUIDAD
  •   Christian Initiative Romero (CIR)
  •   CIDSE
  •   CMAT
  •   CNCD-11.11.11
  •   Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”
  •   Comité de Defensa del Patrimonio Nacional E
  •   Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine
  •   Commission Justice et Paix
  •   Commonwealth Human Rights Organization  (CHRI)
  •   Consejo de Investigación en Desarrollo
  •   Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario MX
  •   Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations
  •   Convergence Globale des Luttes pour la Terre et l’Eau – Ouest Africaine (CGLTE OA)
  •   Convergence malienne contre les accaparements des terres (CMAT)
  •   COOPERACCIÓN
  •   COORDINADORA ESTATAL DE COMERCIO JUSTO
  •   Coordination Nationale de la Plate Forme Paysanne du Niger
  •   CorA Network for Corporate Accountability
  •   CORE Coalition UK
  •   Corporate Accountability
  •   Corporations – Zero Tolerance
  •   DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era)
  •   DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era)
  •   DIGNIDAD Coalition
  •   Dominicans for Justice and Peace (Order of Preachers)
  •   Ecologistas en Acción
  •   Ekumenická akademie (Ecumenical Academy, Czech Republic)
  •   ELA
  •   Empowerment Through Art / Yllang Montenegro
  •   Entraide et fraternité
  •   Entrepueblos/Entrepobles/Entrepobos/Herriarte
  •   Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia
  •   Ethiopian Society for Consumer Protection
  •   European Network against the Privatization and Commercialization of Health and Social

Protection

  •   Fairwatch-Italy
  •   Feminist Task Force
  •   FIAN Austria
  •   FIAN Belgium
  •   FIAN Brasil
  •   FIAN Colombia
  •   FIAN Ecuador
  •   FIAN Germany
  •   FIAN Indonesia
  •   FIAN Internacional sección Honduras
  •   FIAN International
  •   FIAN México
  •   FIAN Sri Lanka
  •   FIAN Sweden
  •   FIAN Switzerland
  •   FIDH
  •   FOCO Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos
  •   Focus on the Global South
  •   Fondation Eboko
  •   Fondazione Finanza Etica
  •   Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE)
  •   France Amérique Latine (FAL)
  •   FRANCISCANS INTERNATIONAL
  •   Fresh Eyes
  •   Friends of the Earth Europe
  •   Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND)
  •   Fundacion para Estudio e investigación de la Mujer
  •   Gestos (soropositividade, comunicação, gênero)
  •   Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, to dismantle Corporate Power and

Stop Impunity

  •   Global Forest Coalition
  •   Global Justice Now
  •   Global Network Dialogues for Humanity-Brazil
  •   Global Policy Forum
  •     Global social justice
  •     Grupo de Trabajo Suiza Colombia ask!
  •     Homa- Human Rights and Business Centre
  •     Hope for Rural Women Assembly
  •     Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition
  •     Human Dignity
  •     IDHEAS LITIGIO ESTRATÉGICO EN DERECHOS HUMANOS
  •     Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ)
  •     Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  •     Instituto de Desarrollo de la Economía Asociativa (IDEAC)
  •     Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo
  •     Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul (Brasil)
  •     Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul (PACS)
  •     International Association of People’s Lawyers
  •     International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)
  •     IRPAD/Afrique
  •     Jordens Vänner
  •     Jubileo Sur/Américas
  •     Justiça nós Trilhos, Brasil
  •     Lawyers for Human Rights
  •     Les Mêmes Droits pour Tous
  •     LVC seaf/ZIMSOFF
  •     Madhyam (New Delhi, India)
  • Marta benavides – SERR & SIGLO XXIII
  •     Medicina Democratica odv
  •     Medico international
  •     Meena Menon and Chandan Kumar
  •     Mines, Mineral & People
  •     Movendi International
  •     Movimento Águas e Serras de Casa Branca, Brumadinho, Brasil
  •     MultiWatch
  •     Murna Foundation
  •     Murna Foundation
  •     Navdanya International
  •     Network Social Responsibility
  •     New Wind Association
  •     Observatorio Ciudadano Chile
  •     Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union
  •     ONG Ecosistemas – Chile
  •     Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific
  •     Plataforma Boliviana frente al Cambio Climático
  •     PODER PROJECT  ORGANISING DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
  •     Policies for Equitable Access to Health (PEAH)
  •     Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
  •     PPSS/Anti-Jindal & Anti-POSCO Movement
  •     Public Services International
  •     Research and Support Center for Development Alternatives-
  •     Indian Ocean (RSCDA-IO) / Centre de Recherches et d’Appui pour les Alternatives

de Développement – Océan Indien (CRAAD-OI)

  •     Réseau International des Droits Humains RIDH
  •     Rural Women’s Assembly Southern Africa
  •     SEATINI South Africa
  •     SERR & SIGLO XXIII
  •     Socialist Workers & Youth League
  •     Society for International Development (SID)
  •     Solidaritas Perempuan
  •     Solifonds
  •     SOTERMUN
  •     Stay Woke Media
  •     Success Capital Organisation
  •     SÜDWIND – Institut für Ökonomie und Ökumene
  •     Temple of Understanding
  •     The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
  •     The PACS Institute –
  •     Transform!at
  •     Transnational Institute – TNI
  •     Transnational Migrant Platform-Europe
  •     Tripla Difesa Onlus
  •     TROCA – Plataforma por um comércio internacional justo
  •     Trócaire
  •     Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE- South Africa)
  •     Unión Sindical Obrera (USO)
  •     UNISON
  •     War on Want
  •     WEED – World Economy, Ecology & Development
  •     WIDE+ (Women In Development Europe+)
  •     Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD)
  •     WomanHealth Philippines
  •     Women’s Major Group
  •     Working Peoples’ Charter India
  •     World March of Women-Philippines
  •     World March of Women-Turkey
  •     WSM

Individuals

  •     Abraham Palafox Gastelum
  •     Adriano Cattaneo
  •     Alaa Talbi
  •     Andrea Casale
  •     Anna Gunterberg
  •     Antonio de Lellis
  •     Atif Abdel Mageed Mohamed
  •     Augusta Angelucci
  •     Barbara Grandi
  • Berson Dena
  • Bessie Aida Pino
  • Bria Scott
  • C. Clare Hinrichs
  • Carlo Bibbiani
  • Carola Mejía
  • Catherine Dimitroulias, politologue
  • claudio schuftan
  • Cristianne Famer Rocha
  • Doris Pérez
  • Dutilloy marie
  • Edgar Mojica Vanegas
  • Edleuza Oliveira Silva
  • Elisabeth Lamour
  • Elli Jost
  • Francina Varghese – WSM
  • Fulvio Aurora
  • Gabriela Franco
  • Giuseppe Reitano
  • Hazel Lavitoria
  • Herr Prof Andreas Neef
  • Horia ros
  • itzel fernandez pando
  • Javier Moreno Ibarra
  • Jennifer Lenahan
  • Joanne clarke
  •   Jorge Fonseca Castro
  • José Alberto Piva
  • Julie Ward, Former MEP
  • Karin Hooijberg
  • Katrin Seifried
  • Khadija Ryadi
  • Libertad Argüello
  • Lisa Sterzinger
  • Luisa Cruz Hefti
  • Maha Abdallah
  • Marcela Ballara
  • Maria Chiara
  • María Inés Alcayaga
  • Maria Paula Russo Riva
  • Martha Lucia Gomez
  • Maryanne Stone-Jimenez
  • Mona Sabella
  • Ms. Whitney Hope
  •   Najoua Baccar (ATFD)
  • Omar Rocha
  • Pablo A. de la Vega M.
  • Prof. Anne C Bellows
  • Prof. Anuradha Chenoy
  • Reinaldo Villalba Vargas
  • Robin Lenahan
  • Rodolfo Pino
  • Ruchi Shroff
  • Samuel Huard
  • Sarah Munera
  •   Shaima Aly
  • Shiney Varghese
  • Sigrid Kroismayr
  • Sinéad Meade
  • Sofia Manukyan
  • Sonja Stara
  • Stella Jobin
  • Steven Lenahan
  • Tetet Nera-Lauron
  • Thomas Schwarz, Executive Secretary, MMI Network
  • Tina Wirnsberger
  • Tiziana dal pra
  • Tobia Zaffalon
  • Tomaso Ferrando
  • Toni Peratoner

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