Monday, October 19, 2009

Time for NGOs to act against the TransNational Corporations

The canses of Trafigura and now Monterrico Metals, a British mining company alleged to be complicit in torture of protesters in Peru, highlights the need to bring Trans-National Corporations back under the rule of law.

This is not a new campaign, of course. We have known for ages that TNCs are more wealthy and powerful than many countries, and that their donations to political parties effectively overrides the commitment of those parties to the welfare of the people that elected them.

What is different is that the victory of social media over Trafigura/Carter-Ruck, associated with popular revulsion at the arrogance of said companies, may trigger a wave of popular action against them. The key to victory lies in forging an alliance of all the NGOs who are affected by this issue - and that consists of most of the major NGOs, who can mobilise hundreds and thousands of supporters.

One of the common responses I hear when canvassing disaffected voters is this: "You're wasting your time. It's all down to vested interests, politicians carry out their orders". The people know at gut level that "big business" can buy off politicians. Unfortunately, but also understandably, this makes them give up on politics. If this huge untapped resource could be brought into line again by a new campaign to reform the TNCs and bring them under the rule of law, we could see success.

We need a conference of the major NGOs to draft up legislation to bring the TNCs under the rule of law.

Here is a set of headlines that I made earlier:

1. *Simultaneous Policy*
This is a powerful lever in bringing about international
agreement. There is a distinction to be made between the idea of
SP itself, and the pretensions of the ISPO, which is trying to
re-invent the MfSS.
2. *English Libel Law Reform:* plaintiff to prove Malicious
Falsehood. Defendant to be granted power to write simple letter
claiming no merit in the accusation, at low charge to defendant.
3. *Corporate Personhood: *
i Work in the Council of Europe to revise the European Convention
on Human Rights in order to make it clear that it only applies to
human beings (it has been applied to Corporations in the UK).
ii Change English law to rule invalid future reliance on any
precedent set by assuming that Corporations are persons.
iii Amend UK law to prevent courts in the UK from enforcing
judgements in US courts which rely on corporations being granted
'Human Rights'. Note that some US states have passed laws to
protect Americans from English libel law judgements.
4. *TNCs*
*i Establish in law thePrinciple that Human Rights (HR) are
superior to rights and interests of Private Corporations
ii Abolish Limited Liability, so makeing shareholders liable to
pay for malpractice in the company that they have invested in.
iii States will guarantee that HR will be applied by TNCs to same
standards in third countries as in their base country.
iv Global Compact to make CSR legally binding, not voluntary, so
that company regulations should prohibit them from participating
in or funding projects with negative effects on environment or HR.
v The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to report to the UN General
Assembly with a proposal to set up a International Tribunal2 to judge
economic and environmental crimes, to which individual and
collective victims can turn as legitimate plaintiffs.
5. Companies to be made legally responsible for the actions of sub-contractors.
6. [space for additions]

This is clearly an ambitious project, but at this level it is a document drafting procedure, which the GP is well-used to. The power for its implementation
will come from a coalition of NGOs.

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