March 16, 2021

Taking the demand to prioritize people and planet over profit to the United Nations

Comic slide from ESCR-Net Corporate Capture comic series

The global economy under capitalism is hungry for endless growth, and through the extraction of resources and labor, corporations have attempted to perfect the art of endless growth in pursuit of profits.

But such growth is inherently at odds with the finite system that is the earth, and too often demands that profit takes precedence over people and the planet.

In response to centuries of economic exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few, social movements have taken on a bold effort to develop a treaty known as the United Nations Treaty on Business and Human Rights. This treaty could finally create a legal framework, applicable in every ratifying country, that establishes the primacy of human rights over business.

This treaty could be instrumental in holding corporations based all over the world accountable for abuses all too often perpetrated in and exported to the Global South.

Recently, Corporate Accountability spoke with three organizers, based in South Africa, Brazil, and Ireland, about what’s at stake for them in organizing towards this treaty. To hear that conversation, check out Episode 3 of our podcast, Subvert: Seeding a new promise, the hopes of a treaty for global accountability.

On the podcast, we hear from Keamogetswe Seipato, who told us that “everything is at stake” with this treaty. As much as people have to gain from the ratification of this treaty, corporations have just as much to lose—so you can be sure that corporations and their proxies are throwing their might into obstructing or delaying the treaty’s negotiations.

This interference is often known as “corporate capture,” which can mean many things, but is essentially a shorthand for any of the ways corporations interfere with and attempt to influence policymaking processes.

Corporate capture isn’t the simplest thing to understand and combat, especially at the U.N. level, where treaty negotiations are taking place. In partnership with the International Network for Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-net), Corporate Accountability produced a comic to visualize and explain corporate capture. One of the panels of the comic is above, and you can find the whole thing here.

If you’re ready to take action to advance this treaty and give communities a pathway to justice, share the podcast, the comic, and sign this letter challenging corporate capture.

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