Promoting a people’s agenda on corporate accountability
On September 4-7, 2018 the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group (CAWG) held its fourth Peoples’ Forum on Human Rights and Business in Manila, the Philippines.
The event was co-hosted by Tebtebba Foundation and a Planning Committee of members, including: Tebtebba Foundation, Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER), Al Haq, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), helped to shape the participant list, agenda and facilitation plans for the Forum and allow local social movements to inform discussions regarding the precarious situation for human rights defenders in the Philippines.
Before the larger Peoples’ Forum gathering of more than 40 members began, there was a day-long meeting for social movements. Participants discussed community-led monitoring and documentation and had an in-depth discussion about the Zero Draft of the Binding Treaty within the context of each other’s past and present struggles against corporate abuse.
Foregrounding key issues in the field of corporate accountability
The first full day of the Peoples’ Forum consisted of four member-led panels led focused on key issues in the corporate accountability field:
- Gender and Corporate Accountability
- Documentation and Monitoring of Violations related to Corporate Accountability
- Trade and Investment Agreements, the Role of Financial Institutions and Investor-State Dispute Settlements (for powerpoint presentations (in English only) from this session, please click here and here), and
- Human Rights Defenders Working in the Corporate Accountability Field.
In the final session, participants recalled and honored those we have lost in the fight to defend human rights in the face of unbridled corporate power, before exploring strategies to reinforce the security, protection and solidarity of those continuing these struggles.
Binding treaty on business and human rights
The following day was devoted to strategy discussions on the treaty, starting with an historical overview of the project within the Corporate Accountability Working Group and institutionally at the UN.
This was followed by an assessment of current and prospective engagements for regional-level advocacy, both to strengthen the treaty and to use the process to advance struggles for regulation and remedy at the regional and national levels. In small regional groups, participants outlined current engagements and assessed new spaces and opportunities for advocacy.
Participants then discussed advocacy position papers (drafts of each were led by different groups of members) to serve as coordinated talking points for ESCR-Net members working during the Fourth Session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights and Beyond.
Corporate capture project
The final day of the Peoples’ Forum was devoted to planning collective work on Corporate Capture and focused on the project’s four areas of work:
- Area 1. Communication tools and materials (video animation, other videos, cartoons, surveys, infographics)
- Area 2. Research on existing policy and legislative mechanisms to prevent corporate capture
- Area 3. Tools for community led documentation and monitoring
- Area 4. Capacity building
Participants also discussed how this project might support network-wide campaigning.
Over the last year, CAWG members made strides in communications and research areas, with the leadership of the Project Advisory Group, including:
- the manifestations of corporate capture, which were revised to include “shaping narratives” and “capture of academic institutions,”
- a clear advocacy position and engagement in relation to the evolving UN treaty that successfully influence the text of the zero draft
- research on policy and legislative mechanisms to map the ways corporate capture is being addressed, and
- a video animation on corporate capture, which premiered at the Peoples’ Forum in English and Spanish.
Members and allies are invited to share the video. If you can commit to sharing the corporate capture video, please fill out the Corporate Capture Video - Sharing Commitment Form currently available:
Members subsequently divided into groups based on interest in a specific area of work and planned next steps, focusing on the manifestation of “community manipulation.” In terms of exploring model legislative and policy mechanisms to challenge corporate capture, next steps will involve building on ongoing research on legislative and policy interference and on forthcoming research on lobbying and electoral finance.
The documentation group discussion started by breaking down the concept of "community manipulation" to identify concrete and observable ways in which this takes place at the community level and to determine what kinds of information needs to be collected at the community level to prove instances of manipulation. Members agreed to develop a survey/toolkit for communities to document community manipulation, in the coming months.
In the latter part of the discussion, members spoke about successful tactics they use to counter corporate capture, which vary from grassroots education, organizing, reports, media campaigns etc. Participants also discussed the need to develop different kinds of outputs – some that speak to community members and others that target activists and NGOs. They also articulated interest in facilitating an online platform with a series of webinars to collect these member-produced materials to facilitate exchanges and knowledge-sharing on strategies to confront corporate capture.