Comment: It’s time to confront corporations’ crimes against humanity
By Laia Blanch
The time has come to unite the hundreds of struggles, campaigns, networks, movements and organisations combating the diverse ways transnational corporations are appropriating our destinies, natural heritage and rights in every corner of the planet.
Neoliberal globalisation has opened the doors for the exploitation of the world by huge economic powers. They have taken over our lives by creating a blanket of impunity through the dismantling and systematic violation of laws and signing trade and investment agreements which award investors more rights than citizens. Peoples' freedoms have been violated, the earth and its resources destroyed, pillaged and contaminated, and resistance criminalised, while such firms continue to commit economic and ecological crimes without redress. These corporations, driven by their imperative of maximising profit, seek to pit workers from different regions against each other in a race to the bottom.
The governance and policies of the multilateral institutions – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation – have long served companies' interests. Moreover, the United Nations and the European Union have been increasingly captured by big business. This is reflected in the policies shaped to satisfy the interests of capital and in these bodies' refusal to impose limits on corporations.
In the face of mounting criticism of their operations, transnational corporations have designed tools – such as corporate social responsibility – to clean up their image, while allowing them to enhance their profits. Major corporations act with brutality in the rich nations from which they originate, but especially in the global south, and increasingly in emerging countries like Brazil, India, China and Russia, taking more and more of our wealth and rights.
Transnationals have commodified life and continue to seize territories, forests and water and transform social and human relations. Health and education, for example, are too often considered the privileges of those who have money, no longer the rights of all people. Amid the global economic crisis, banks have repossessed the homes of thousands of people. In Europe, they have imposed austerity measures which are a replica of the structural adjustment programmes implemented years ago in developing countries. While unprecedented attacks on public services, labour rights and social programmes take place, governments use public funds to forgive the excesses of the markets and financial institutions.
Transnational corporations operate globally, moving from one country to another, while applying the same recipe to generate profit at any cost. It is we, the 99%, who bear the costs. Yet resistance is growing throughout the world. Every day, more communities, movements and peoples struggle against these companies – often confronting specific firms or sectors – and have won important victories. Even so, we have not managed to halt the advance of corporations. When defeated in one place, they adjust their strategies and move to another location, where they defy any obstacle that rises in their path.
So, in order to tackle corporate power and the system that protects and benefits transnational companies, there is the urgent need for a concerted response. We must unite our experiences and struggles, learn collectively from success and failure, and share our analysis and strategies for putting an end to the impunity of transnationals. The concrete struggles of our communities against such corporations could be even more triumphant if we are able to unite them with the efforts of other peoples in different countries, regions or continents.
We, the people, are the protagonists, and what is fundamental in building alternative societies is to share our experience for developing lifestyles distinct from the culture of transnational production, imposed by capitalism, that now wants to disguise itself as green.
We invite you to join us in collectively building this process of mobilisation towards a global campaign against the power of corporations and their crimes against humanity. Dismantling multinationals' system of control demands coordinated global action, engaging with struggles in various spheres, combining street protests with popular education and activity in parliaments, the media and international forums and organisations. By creating a powerful movement of solidarity and practical opposition against big business, its apologists and promoters, we will begin to build a world free of corporate dominance and greed.
Laia Blanch is international programmes officer at War on Want
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