Daniel Dorado is the tobacco campaign director. He recently published his law masters thesis about compulsory drug licenses and the right to health in the Andean Community, a South American integration effort that was created among others to encourage trade cooperation between countries in the region (currently is conformed by Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru). We sat down with Daniel to discuss recent campaign wins, Corporate Accountability’s role in the movement, and how he stays hopeful and grounded when there is so much work left to do.
The recent victory against Philip Morris International (PMI) regarding the COVID-19 vaccine is extremely exciting – congratulations! Why was it important for Corporate Accountability and our allies to make sure that PMI was removed from this venture?
We and our allies at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Canada first learnt of PMI’s attempt to help develop a COVID-19 vaccine with the Canadian government at the height of the pandemic and quickly jumped into action to stop this from happening. Even then, we were told that this would be an unpopular move due to the importance of vaccines. So we had to be clear that it wasn’t the vaccine itself that we were against, but rather the fact that PMI – a major Big Tobacco corporation – was involved in this process when their own products kill millions of people a year and worsen COVID-19 symptoms in people with comorbidities associated with smoking.
Transnational corporations like PMI use corporate social responsibility tactics to clean its image all the time – and this venture was no different. Simply put, PMI’s involvement with this the development of vaccine was a violation of the global tobacco treaty. So with the support of more than 100 tobacco control organizations worldwide, we organized to stop the vaccine’s approval as long as PMI was involved in and benefiting from it–thus, delegitimizing Big Tobacco as a public health partner.
What drew you to the movement for corporate accountability?
My biggest influence has been my family. Both my father and my grandfather were lawyers and politicians who advocated for social justice and as a child, I used to travel with them around [my hometown Popayán, Colombia]. It was through these travels that I saw and learnt firsthand about all the injustice that was happening – and what it means to fight for human rights and workers’ rights collectively.
Though my mother and grandmothers were not lawyers, they were each also involved in supporting social movements in their own ways, which taught me many organizing values and how to be in solidarity with different people. And in university, I became involved in several student movements, particularly with groups that focused on human rights. I was studying law at the time, while my dad [Yul Francisco Dorado, former Director for Latin America] began working with Corporate Accountability. His work with the organization indirectly influenced my career path. I was very close to my dad and if he was still alive, there’s no doubt we would have continued working on different campaigns together, including campaigns related to tobacco control.
What is Corporate Accountability’s role in the broader movement for justice?
There are plenty! But I’ll say that one of our biggest roles is how we strategically challenge corporate targets. The work we’ve done on the tobacco campaign is setting precedents for how we approach corporations in other industries. Our expertise is being valued by the climate justice movement, the food justice movement, and many other movements for justice. We are helping to challenge transnational corporations as a whole – demonstrating how cooperation among people and between governments can lead to tremendous victories and that our vision for a better world is fundamentally achievable.
In many ways, the tobacco control movement laid the groundwork for the demand for corporate liability. What are some lessons that the tobacco control movement can offer to other movements?
It’s clear that public health policy development and implementation should not engage in any way with corporations. But when that does happen, we luckily have the tools we need to defend the public health sector and shut corporations out from being part of these ventures. This is what happened in the case of PMI’s involvement with Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The tobacco industry is not unique. Evidence shows that many industries – Big Polluters, Big Food, Big Alcohol, and more – have learnt their abusive corporate tactics from the Big Tobacco playbook since the 1950s. This is why I disagree with people who don’t think liability or conflict of interest policies can be implemented in other industries.
The fact that the global tobacco treaty exists is proof that transnational corporations can be shut out of shaping public policy. We can secure human rights and protect the planet without corporate input. And in cases where governments may need to interact with different sectors, there needs to be clear roles and boundaries that all public authorities or the civil service must observe before entering into mutual agreement so that people’s health and well-being are prioritized and safeguarded, instead of corporate interests or profits.
How can we build international solidarity, connect different movements for justice, and support frontline communities, especially in the Global South?
One of the reasons I keep showing up to the work we do at Corporate Accountability is the way the organization has evolved and reinvented itself so that we are always living up to our values. Corporate Accountability has positioned itself as a resource for the broader social and climate justice movement. And in the process of evolution and reinvention, we have become more flexible and intentional in who we partner with, how we carry out our work, and the outcomes we’re seeking to achieve in the world. This flexibility allows a person like me to contribute to the work not only as part of the staff, but also as a supporter, an organizer, and as someone who wants to be part of this big movement.
Things that feel difficult to challenge or achieve become possible because we are working together with people, communities, and allies from all over the world. The global tobacco treaty didn’t happen because Corporate Accountability organized alone – there was an entire movement made up of organizers like me and organizations like ours that worked hard for this victory. Likewise, with the recent victory against PMI. These small articulations of social movements, when joined together, can make a huge difference in the world. I see it happen every day.