by Adam W. Parsons / November 7th, 2016
A binding treaty to regulate the activities of corporations could provide a vital counterpoint to controversial free trade and investment agreements, with potentially radical implications for a new international political, economic and legal order.
In the last week of October, civil society came another step closer to achieving a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. Delegates from many large social movements and networks met alongside state representatives at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, to further proceedings for an open-ended intergovernmental working group set up two years ago. Despite considerable opposition from Western powers to a binding treaty in any form (particularly the United States, United Kingdom and other countries of the European Union), activist groups are now ramping up the struggle as part of a Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity.
The fact that this process is now an official part of the UN agenda is itself remarkable. Since the 1970s, there have been a long series of failed attempts to develop binding international systems to regulate corporations for their human rights violations. The abortive efforts to create a code of conduct for TNCs through the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) were completely thwarted by the early…