Students report on the Monsanto Tribunal
From October 14th until 16th, the Hague was the stage for the Monsanto Tribunal. The aim of the Wageningen delegation is to gather voices at the Monsanto Tribunal and to report on the event and the different opinions from the guest speakers. Hereby we aim to stimulate debate on industrial agriculture and its alternatives at Wageningen University. And this is their report’’
Impression of the day 5
A call for transparency 8 Monsantoâ€™s twin in China 12
Corporate accountability on the Monsanto Tribunal
Impression of the day By Jurre Zwart
Wageningen, it’s 6:50 AM. My friend jumps up from the mattress next to me and before I know it she is downstairs to turn of the alarm. ‘Are you still coming?’ she asks me. I’m thinking. It has been only 4 hours since we left the goodbye party of another friend of mine. Actually, the whole week has been hectic as I was travelling up and down the country with a dislocated shoulder. Today I would go to Den Haag for the Monsanto Tribunal for Otherwise Foundation and as a member of the Wageningen Reporting mission. Forty minutes later than planned we are on our way. In the driver’s seat a camera man, next to him an alumni from the WUR and participant in the Wageningen Reporting mission, in the back me, coordinator for Otherwise and my friend part of the action cooking crew ‘Rampenplan’. In the front I hear a vague story about insecurities about whether they put the right kind of gasoline in the tank. It gives me a fussy feeling. Did I already say I’m kind of tired? We arrive early which gives me some time to browse through the leaflets I receive upon arrival. The whole happening consists of two main events. The Tribunal itself is a space, as indicated in the booklet, where 30 people give testimonies about the impact of Monsanto’s business model on the state of the environment and on people. This will happen under the supervision of a selection of internationally renowned judges and with the help of equally internationally renowned Human Rights lawyers. In the program I read that upon hearing the testimonies the judges will give advice as to how to proceed on the road towards actually trying Monsanto in an international court of Justice. I knew that the Monsanto Tribunal was not about organizing a ‘real’ court case, but now I also know what the aimed for harvest will be. The other main event is the People’s Assembly. This is the space where civil society comes together to share knowledge about impunity of multinationals (the difficulties in holding multinationals accountable in court), GMO technology, seed sharing for agro diversity and toxicology. This is the space where an information market is set up so the involved organizations can share their campaigns with the visitors. This is the space where the movement building takes place. This is where I will spend my day at a workshop about the potential to break the impunity of multinationals through the construction of an International Court of Human Rights and Business about which I will share my insights in a different article.
The Monsanto Tribunal is controversial of course. To some it is high time that not just Monsanto but the whole agro-industry is finally called to responsibility. To others all the people behind it the Monsanto Tribunal do is nothing more than putting on a high-profile smearing campaign and the whole happening is nothing but another attempt at attention seeking by activists. Whatever the real situation is here, it certainly is a high profile indeed. At what other occasion in histo-
ry did civil-society organizations cooperate so successfully to pull together such an assembly of internationally renowned judges, lawyers, academics and activists? I myself decided to attend the Monsanto Tribunal because I am curious to find out more about the questions of supposed impunity for multinationals, the question of holding legal persons accountable for ecocide and the question of to what extend activism of this kind can contribute to new forms of legal intervention in a rapidly changing world where such new legal interventions are perhaps very much needed as technology keeps on developing into uncharted realms and where extensive globalization contributes to a context where multinationals are increasingly powerful and influential, look for example at the role Unilever plays in the innovation of transnational governance initiatives such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. At the Peopleâ€™s Assembly I run into lots of people that have some kind of connection to Wageningen, for example I spend my lunch catching up with an old neighbor that by now is working at Hivos. But the real thing is of course that there are lots of people from all over the world that have gathered here to be part of this event. So it happens to be that I cannot remember a moment that I heard so many people speaking French in one day in the Netherlands. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people around here are somehow connected to efforts against large scale food production and/or pro agro ecological alternatives. A sudden reminder of the fact that we are at an activist congregation comes when I see a group of French masked activists with banners and signs accusing Monsanto of various forms of ecocide doing a small intervention. On top of that Vandana Shiva, the undisputed rockstar of the agroecology movement, joins them for a short media moment at which many cameras, including mine, are pointed at them. Throughout the day it becomes clear that even though the event is focused on the most unpopular agri-business of them all, the movement that is gathered here has come together not just because of Monsanto. The workshop that I attend for example is not about Monsanto, instead it is about impunity of multinationals in general, about the history of civil society and some countries pushing for mechanisms through which multinationals can be held accountable and about how this process is being derailed. This workshop was hosted by members of TNI, La Via Campesina and the Global Justice Network. With professional activists of this degree you know that they do their homework and they did. The discourse was one where historical accounts, discussions of possibility and fierce proclamations of what ought to be all had their place. In the evening assemblies, the conversation is about many things. For example, the latest GMO technologies at the hand of diverse agro businesses that are about to embark on the market are discussed and how they are not just focused anymore on improving agricultural production, but also about how to control pests and thus how GM technology will enter ecosystems, meanwhile not so long ago the promise was that such developments would be out of the questions. Another topic of the evening is the fact that some of the most novel developments in the agro-industry focus around extensive mechanization of agriculture with the help of drones and mechanized planting and plant care, which has nothing to do with genetic modification, but all the more so with agro-industry and large scale agriculture. Another issue that is addressed concerns the power struggle between civil society initiatives and the agroindustry in the USA to influence legislation, as was the case for example in the GMO labelling case in California. Here the framing is one where democracy is put against the power of large corporations. The American context certainly seeps through as the influence of corporations in legislation seems
much more overt and the popular discourse against it seems much more crystalized under the influence of the Occupy Movement and the Feel the Bern campaign by Bernie Sanders. Thus, what I observed in Den Haag dealt with a number of related issues that interlink together into a complex set of problems for a movement that is pushing for an alternative view on how to deal with the challenges of providing food sovereignty rather than food security; of taking seriously the task of protecting agro diversity through popular participation; of taking up the challenge of climate change; of saving democracy in a globalizing world and ultimately on how to make sustainability a reality. For now it is hard to say what the long term impact will be of the Monsanto Tribunal. It feels much like the stage that was provided by this high profile event was much intended as an in between step for further interventions. The intended objective of the Monsanto Tribunal itself testifies of that, as it was a moment to collect evidence more than anything. Knowledge has been shared, networks have been reaffirmed, but the movement itself will have to show its capacity to have a long term impact before it will be able to achieve its goals.
A Call for Transparency By Noor Ai-lien van der Vorst
In October 2016 a tribunal against the agro-chemical corporation Monsanto took place in The Hague, an international civil society initiative set-up by known researchers, activists and lawyers active in the field of environment, agriculture, and human rights. The main purpose of the tribunal was to hold Monsanto accountable for the impact of its products and actions in a simulated international court setting. The primary charges concerned human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and ecocide. Over 750 people from 30 countries participated in the event. Among them were the members of the critical student group Stichting Boerengroep (Farmers Foundation) from Wageningen. We were present at both the people’s assembly as the tribunal to report back to Wageningen University about the events. It was the aim to take back the messages of activists, researchers, lawyers, scientists, farmers and other victims of Monsanto’s products and operations to the university. By posing the question what is your message to Wageningen University? we aimed to collect messages on what the role of the university can be in research on genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), chemical fertilisers, and large-scale industrialised agriculture. The decisions of the university concerning research topics and funding for its projects can directly be related to the business of agro-industrial multinationals such as Monsanto. Monsanto has been producing toxic agro-chemical products for over a decade which has resulted in damage to the global environment and illness and death for many. Rachel Parent from the British organisation GMWatch explains expressively that ‘’the company dominates the North American food chain with its genetically modified seeds and pesticides and has become well known for its ruthless legal battles against small farmers and its decades-long history of toxic contamination’’ (Parent, 2016). Equipped with a camera and microphones members of Boerengroep navigated through the events and spoke to witnesses of the tribunal and spokespeople who came to share experiences they had with the multinational corporation and their struggle for justice and transparency. The diverse range of interviewees told us about research they had carried out on the issues of GMO’s, personal health effects of pesticides, experiences of boycott and harassment by the multinational when exposing the truth which impaired the company and harm caused by the toxic products of the agro-chemical corporation. Five interviews have been summarised below and the most important messages we want to report back on to Wageningen University have been highlighted. GMO’s Impede Heritage Percy Schmeiser was asked what his message was for our agricultural university. As a Canadian farmer with decades of experience, he shared the following story with us. He explained that GMO’s should never be introduced in any context since it is impossible to ever take them out of the environment again. In that way, he continued, organic and also conventional farmers get lost since every crop will get contaminated by the genetically modified organisms and crops. Hereby one will lose both indigenous and heirloom seeds. Furthermore, the use of chemicals will increase dramatically with all the dangers that it takes with it; traces of chemicals in our food for example. A lot of researchers from Wageningen University are of opinion that the use of GMO’s is needed in order to feed the world population. Therefore we posed the
Canadian farmer the question whether research and GMO’s really help farmers to feed the world. The expert replied that in the Canadian context the introduction of GMO’s has not increased the yield output. He believes that this is just an often repeated excuse of companies and corporations in order to sell more chemicals and get control over the worlds’ seed supplies. He further explained that once you give up the decision making over your seeds you will lose autonomy and heritage. A powerful statement that was made by the Canadian farmer includes that no corporation nor individual should be in charge of the worlds’ seed supply. That right belongs to farmers and people that want to grow crops. ‘’Never introduce GMO’s because you lose the right to your seeds and massively increase the use of chemical substances.’’ Percy Schmeiser, Canadian farmer Sin Mais No Hay Pais Four activists with green t-shirts and covered in buttons with images of corn on them represented the Mexican organisation Sin Mais No Hay Pais (without corn no country). They brought information on Mexican corn to the tribunal and aimed to stress the importance of preventing contamination by GMO’s on corn varieties. Mexico is the country of origin of corn, a staple food that is grown and consumed all over the globe. The country is home of numerous native genetic varieties of corn who constitute a huge biological, agricultural, cultural, and economic wealth. Since 2013 lawsuits have been started against Monsanto in order to keep GM corn out of the territories where the crop originates from. Sin Mais No Hay Pais has been fighting for this cause since three years now. The activists expressed the hope that the tribunal will support farmers who are seeding and planting corn in Mexico and all over the world.
Elske Hageraats interviewing Percy Schmeiser
GMWatch GMWatch is an independent organisation who provides the public with the latest news and comments on genetically modified (GMO) foods and crops. Their main goal is to counter the enormous corporate political power and propaganda of the GMO industry (GMWatch.org). We talked to one of the founders of GMWatch, Claire Robinson, who was a witness during the tribunal concerning the topic of the lobby surrounding GMO’s and the pressure which agro-chemical companies and their beneficiaries enact in order to favour their business and sales. In reaction to the question on what her message is to the university of Wageningen she replied the following. She urges researchers and staff of the WUR ‘’to get corporate money out of research on plants and crops.’’ She elaborated on this statement saying that if you take corporate money you will get a preconceived answer to every question you ask. In other words; what comes out best is what makes most profit for the companies. According to her this is not what research should be about. It should be about doing your best for farmers and for people who eat and grow food all around the world. ‘’Get corporate money out of research on plants and crops.’’ Claire Robinson, GMWatch Environmental Rights Lawyer. Juan Ignacio Pereyra is an Argentinian lawyer specialised in environmental rights. During the tribunal he was a witness to report on the crimes and impacts of Monsanto’s products on biodiversity, family farming and people’s health. A simple and powerful statement was made by the Argentinian lawyer when he replied the question of what our university can do for sustainable agricultural systems. ‘’Work with agro-ecology! he said. It is viable and very interesting, the FAO also regards it as an agricultural system which can feed the worlds’ population.’’ He also gave us an elaborate introduction on what GMO’s do to our environment. He explained us that the use of GMO’s requires a huge application of pesticides. Plants, insects and animals, fungi’s; all are killed by herbicides, pesticides and fungicides of agro-chemical multinationals. Since worms and other soil creatures cannot keep the earth moist and ‘’spongy’’’, erosion occurs; the water cannot enter the earth anymore. Hereby we reside in a crisis of an environment that needs artificial fertilisers. He tellingly put it as an ‘’addicted rural area’’ in which chemical products deteriorate the quality of people’s food. This system of agro-chemical inputs only serves the cost effectiveness of companies. Referring back to Pereyra’s call for research into agro-ecology, he explained that it is an alternative system which understands the rural as a living system where everything that nourishes this area is already present. It is cheaper since there is no need for artificial fertilisers, it creates stronger ecological systems and produces high quality foods. ‘’Work with agroecology!’’ Juan Ignacio Pereyra, environmental rights lawyer, Argentina Dangers of Glyphosate Peter Clausing was also a witness in the tribunal testifying for scientific fraud committed by the German and European authorities concerning the assessment on whether the herbicide glyphosate is carcinogenic or not. This product is used to kill weeds and grasses which compete with crops in large-scale agriculture and is also known as the controversial ‘’RoundUp’’, the name which was introduced by Monsanto in 1974. Several assessments and reports have posed that the product is indeed likely to be carcinogenic, which means causing cancer in humans, and genotoxic, damaging to DNA. These scientific results of Clausing, among others, have been rejected and refuted by the agro-chemical industry and their lobbyists. Clausing stated that the truth about glyphosate products must be acknowledged as this acceptation would send a strong message to countries where the toxic is currently widely used. Those countries include,
among others, Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia. His hope is that the tribunal would contribute to continue keeping an eye on the glyphosate case and that the herbicide will be prohibited in Europe by the end of 2017. In response to our question on what his message to our university is he replied ‘’I would be glad to see Wageningen University becoming less dependent on industry funding.’’ Peter Clausing further explained that this is a trend he also observes in Germany, where industry is also widely involved with research. His recommendation to the WUR is therefore to get more independent in research at the university. ‘’I would be glad to see Wageningen University becoming less dependent on industry funding.’’ Peter Clausing, toxicologist, Germany Corporate Funding in Scientific Research The aim of our efforts during the Monsanto tribunal was to bring the essential message back to the university of Wageningen. A strong recommendation for the university which was expressed by both experts from GMWatch and a toxicologist concerns the issue of scientific research of the Wageningen University which is funded by corporations and multinationals. Corporate funding for universities can change the research agenda and therefore direct the focus and financing of scientific research carried out. Research funded by industry is usually aimed to develop products that can be quickly brought to the market – and create corporate profit (Alternet, 2013). This market oriented approach can have an influence on the possibilities of fundamental research. Even with protections in place regarding research funding by business, corporate sponsors can influence the decision making process within universities. Concerning the research funding of Wageningen University, it is said that all information can be consulted and freely accessed. However, when searching online either in outside sources or on the website of the university it is very difficult to find an overview of the external financers of research and professors. A step forward in transparency on external research funding would be to provide an understandable and accessible overview of all funding actors and companies. Such an effort would facilitate democratic values and offer clarity on external research interests. What are the risks and disadvantages of receiving private funds for university projects and scientific research? If the research agenda of Wageningen University is being taking over by corporate interest and mainly focusses on research within the paradigm that suits the agro-chemical industry, how much attention is put in agro-ecological research for the benefit of small-scale farmers? It is those farmers that are most influenced by the actions and lobby of agro-chemical multinationals. Those farmers that are most vulnerable to the effects of investments in pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Simultaneously, it is those farmers that grow the large majority of food for the worlds’ population. This short article is a call for transparency in funding for research carried out by Wageningen University. International researchers and experts have shared a very clear message; get corporate funding out of research on plants and crops and work with agro-ecology! References Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate#Advertising_controversy Parent, R. (2016) I listened to the stories of Monsanto’s alleged victims. Huffington Post http://www. huffingtonpost.ca/rachel-parent/monsanto-tribunal_b_13421950.html GMWatch, leged-victims
MonsantoÂ´s twin in China By Vania Olmos Lau
During the Tribunal, walking among the different workshops and events you could notice three regions of the world were very well represented: Africa, Europe and Latin America. However, it wasnÂ´t until the presentation given by Xiulin Gu, professor of Finance and Economics at the Yunnan University, that I realized a very important region of the world was missing: Asia. Just as the two super powers Monsanto and Bayer have merged in China a new corporate giant has been born with the merging of Syngenta with ChemChina. A country with a true ancient agricultural culture that has fed millions of people for millenia is now threaten by a massive campaign to expand the ideas of the Green revolution across the continent. Promoting monocultures and the massive use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides on the land with the promise of higher yields. However we should remember that this technological and economic progress comes at very high not only environmental but also social costs. We know that when China wants to do things right it can do it, effectively, efficiently and in a large scale so, as we draw our attention towards the Monsanto-Bayer partnership we must not undermine or leave behind similar actions by other transnational agribusiness giants around the globe. Let not one of them act in peace under the shadow of Monsanto. Further reading: March Against Syngenta: Monsantoâ€™s Swiss Twin Unmasked by MultiWatch.
Corporate Accountability at the Monsanto Tribunal By Jurre Zwart
During the Monsanto Tribunal, the tribunal and the People’s Assembly took place alongside of each other. While the testimonies of victims experts and others were collected at the tribunal, the People’s Assembly functioned as a movement building, networking and educational space. I spend my time at the People’s Assembly. At the People’s Assembly I attended two workshops, one on corporate accountability and one on agroecology initiatives. The first one was called ‘Steps to hold transnational corporations responsible for their act’. This is the one that I will write about here. I chose this workshop because the theme of corporate accountability goes far beyond ´Monsanto´ alone and I was interested to learn more about this because I am aware that in many cases transnational corporations (or TNCs) are so powerful that they cannot be held accountable so easily for what they sometimes do. Corporate Social Responsibility vs. Corporate Accountability Corporate accountability is different from this other pretty well-known concept namely Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) but they are definitely related. An important distinction is that in the case of CSR, corporations set their own targets on how to clean up their social and environmental impact and in the case of Corporate Accountability corporations are (legally) held accountable for their impacts. Thus CSR is driven by the intrinsic motivation of a corporate actor to behave positively and Corporate Accountability is externally driven way to hold corporations legally accountable for their actions. On the website of the Environmental Justice Organisation Liabilities & Trade it is described like this : Instead of urging companies to voluntarily give an account of their activities and impacts to improve their social and environmental performance, the corporate accountability ‘movement’ believes corporations must be ‘held to account’ – implying enforceability. This is a more radical position than that of CSR (corporate social responsibility) advocates (1). At the workshop it showed that the proponents of this idea to make corporate accountability a reality were mainly considering the UN as their prospected institution to work through. Their aim is to push for an internationally binding treaty on Human Rights that is brought into existence through the UN, complete with a UN International Court on Human Rights. Before I continue to further discuss what I learned about Corporate Accountability in the workshop, I wish to share some thoughts on the Monsanto Tribunal as an experiment by civil society in envisioning International Law as a tool to hold transnational corporations accountable to their act. The International Law Experiment The Monsanto Tribunal can be read as a ‘heterotopia’, or a social experiment if you will. The concept of a heteropia refers to a space that is shaped not by the rules of the status quo but rather by another set of values as a means of pointing towards the potentiality of another order that is potentially more just
and inclusive. The concept was developed by the French philospher Michél Foucault and means to point towards the function of a space that does not obey the hegemony of the status quo, as a space where a better vision of reality is portrayed. In the case of the Monsanto Tribunal the event could be read as an exemplary case where an exemplary multinational accountable to international law is ‘tried’ as an exercise for further legislation to be developed in the future. The whole event was indeed a showcase of how multinational corporations could indeed be held accountable for their actions provided that the demands of civil society would be taken into account in developing international law further. And law is not a stationary thing, it develops under the influence of demands from different parties and power struggles all the same. This was one of the points that the Belgian judge, Françoise Tulkens, addressed in her final address at the Monsanto Tribunal. She said that civil society has an instrumental role in leading the way for those who are in power to create new legislation for international law and that this is a vital component of how international law actually can claim its legitimacy. You can find the video on the Monsanto tribunal Facebook page (2). The Corporate Accountability Workshop Having said all of this, the workshop on accountability of transnational corporations (TNCs) made sense as one of the key areas of the People’s Assembly alongside questions of seed sharing, toxicity, GMO technology and agroecology. The workshop was set up in three parts. The first part was discussion on the history of the efforts to make a internationally binding treaty on Human Rights a reality; the second part was discussion on why a treaty as such would be needed and the third part was discussion of the demands are of involved civil society organizations. The overall objective was to illustrate the history of efforts make it possible to hold TNCs accountable through a UN Court of Justice and what the current state of affairs is with regards to this struggle. People from several bigger and more established movements and NGOs hosted the workshop. Specifically, they were TNI, Global Justice Now, La Via Campesina, The Landless Workers Movement and IFOAM Europe. A short history`- neocolonialim The first part, led by a spokesperson part of TNI, focused on the history of the efforts to hold TNCs accountable for their actions from a birds-eye perspective. She started to talk about a speech that president Allende from Chile gave at the UN in 1972 at a time that many countries only recently gained their independence from their former colonial powers. She told that in the speech he raised awareness about the fact that Chile lost many revenues to multinational corporations and how he nationalized them and how he pointed towards TNCs as the new imperial sources of colonial extractivism and the need to possibilities for poorer countries to assert their sovereignty if they wish to develop according to their own wishes. Thus she connects the need for a binding treaty on Human Rights to the need for less powerful countries to assert their sovereignty against TNCs as to overcome neo-colonial power relations. The talk continued with the statement ‘As we can be perplexed by the power of transnationals we should not forget about the consistent and persistent resistant against this power’, underlining the purpose of her treatment of the history of Corporate Accountability to be to motivate people to join in the search of Corporate Accountability. In her further treatment of the history of the search for Corporate Accountability a theme started to develop which centred on how this search driven by former colonies and civil society groups while cor-
porate forces and governments from developed countries more than once derailed the process, while a large body of corporate governance did develop indeed which is exemplified in the power of the WTO, the North American free Trade Agreement and the new trade agreements such as CETA, TTIP, TISA and TTIP. This also led us to this critical moment in time at which international corporate legislation threatens to increasingly undermining national sovereignty that we are at right now. A short history – the UN Now, there have been UN bodies that monitor corporate adherence to Human Rights standards. From 1947 until 2006 there was the UN Sub-Commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and from 2005-2011 there was the UN Secretary General on Business and Human Rights, but none of these were legally binding (3). On top of that many countries expressed that they were not satisfied with the UN Secretary General on Business and Human Rights, so when Ecuador and South Africa demanded a legally binding agreement, they were supported by 58 other countries. This led to one of the latest developments she discussed as the United Nations Human Rights Council voted on the matter in 2014. A working group was installed to prepare a treaty imposing international human rights in legal obligations on transnational corporations. They are still working on it now. In a press release it stated that ‘the mandate of the working group will be to “elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises’ (4). Thus this is a short history on the development of an internationally binding treaty on Human rights. A final remark would be that another assembly was announced where the rally for an internationally binding treaty would be continued. This rally has already taken place and it did so on October the 25th in Geneva with the participation of FIAN, GPF, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Social Watch, Society for International Development, Third World Network, and the Environmental Committee (5). Why a binding Treaty is Needed This part of the discussion was led by a young lady from Global Justice Now. She illustrated her arguments with many examples of the recent history of Great Britain. They illustrated well how the world has developed over the past years into one where transnational corporations have increasingly become an unchallenged and dominant force in shaping global trends. She argued that while this trend has taken shape as such, there is a lack of legal mechanisms to hold TNC’s accountable for what they do wrong. Thus, according to Global Justice Now, we live in a world where TNC’s are among the biggest economic entities, where politicians openly court TNC’s in their pursuit of policymaking nationally as well as internationally. At the same time we live in a world where the biggest challenge to any social or environmental justice campaign is unrivalled and unchallenged corporate power with strong ties to politicians. The question has become what exactly still stands in between corporations and unbridled power, especially if this trend continues. One example was given of how the large amount of migrants coming to UK was met with a heavily privatized border regime with companies like G4S taking up
a large number of
tasks that would otherwise be reserved for a regulated government agency (6). To summarize, the need for an internationally binding treaty on Human Rights is thus argued for as a tool to give counterweight to the ongoing developments of increased influence of TNCs over policies and societies worldwide, which is heavily undermining democracies. This also the case because there is a large
body of international policy which is very consequential for countries all over the world that has been developed by institutions such as the WTO and the IMF with a strong bias towards a neoliberal point of view and that shape world politics accordingly. This is all the more reason to plea for an alternative body
of legislation that gives tools to other actors to keep the powers of TNC’s in check and to go beyond the situation of legal impunity in which TNCs find themselves in right now accorsing to Global Justice Now. As said before, there are those who, like Judge Tulkens claim that civil society has an important role in guiding the way for what the content of such a binding treaty should be. This will be the following section of this article. The demands of civil society for a Treaty We are basically asking the question here of what an internationally binding treaty on Human Rights should look like according to civil society initiatives. This question was dealt with by a representative of FIAN International. He mentioned the following points about what the treaty should be:
Governments should have the responsibility to regulate and monitor corporate activities
within and beyond their borders
There should be specificity about when TNCs are to be held accountable and when CEO’s
are to be held accountable
The treaty should provide access to justice for affected communities
With the treaty an international monitoring body should come into existence
It should be a UN Treaty Body
It should be an extension of the criminal court
It should be a new International Court.
So he proposes a fully developed UN Court of Human Rights much like the International Court of Justice in Den Haag. It should be one that makes national governments responsible for TNCs rather than compliant with them. The first thought that comes to mind is that the International Court of Justice is controversial in its own way as it is associated with a ‘liberal’ bias, by which I mean is that the rules upon which it functions are not consistently applied according to critics, certain world leaders such as Milosevic were brought to trial there for war crimes, but someone like George Bush Jr and with him leaders of less powerful states never would end up there which hence prove the inefficiency and the bias of the institution. Such a bias is easily connected to geopolitical motivations and it is probably almost impossible to overcome these. One would have to guard to not end up in a similar situation with a court for TNCs. In conclusion In current debate the idea of corporate accountability is so far still quite controversial. Yet from the point of view of the civil society organizations at the workshop it was more than clear that there is a power imbalance in existence that needs counter weight. In this globalizing world TNCs operate in a realm that is often beyond, over the heads of and in between the sovereignty of states which is what makes it hard to hold them accountable for their actions. In that sense we are speaking here of a classic check and balance system which resembles the kinds upon which modern states have been built in the 18th century. If we go for the internationally binding treaty strategy it would mean that we would have a check and balance operates somewhat over the heads of national states too and therefore it is interesting to think about who exactly would have access to this international court for example.
In conclusion I would say that though the direct cause for the workshop lies in the Monsanto Tribunal Event, The question of accountability of multinational corporations obviously goes far beyond the giants of the agroindustry. The accountability of transnational corporations has become an issue that has gained much attention over the last few years. The issue is interlinked with the growth of influence of transnational corporations in the world of today. We should not forget that a big wave of social movements swept the world for a few years on end and that the French movement of Nuit Debout only has just passed. The Occupy Wall street movement spoke of the 1% and the banks of Wallstreet already in 2011 as they were trying to warn and fight back against what has been called â€˜the corporate take-over of democracyâ€™. They too saw how transnational corporations have become so big that they are hardly accountable to anyone and that in fact the political class has grown into the position of accommodating the ongoing globalization of finance and with it, the continued rise of neoliberal capitalism. Seen in this light I think there is a lot of demand for a way to push for more corporate accountability in the world of today indeed. References (1) Corporate Accountability definition: http://www.ejolt.org/2013/05/corporate-accountability/ (2) From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/monsantotribunal/videos/ (3) http://humanrightshistory.umich.edu/accountability/corporations/ (4)http://www.ijrcenter.org/2014/07/15/in-controversial-landmark-resolution-human-rights-council-takes-first-step-toward-treaty-on-transnational-corporations-human-rights-obligations/ (5) Announcement of Assembly: https://www.globalpolicywatch.org/blog/2016/10/20/event-corporate-accountability-and-influence-in-the-un/ (6) From the website of G4S: http://www.g4s.uk.com/en-GB/What%20we%20do/Services/Care%20 and%20justice%20services/Immigration%20and%20Borders/
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