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5 Reasons for UN Agreements Regulating Corporations

Countless cases of human rights violations by corporations show voluntary self-commitments of businesses cannot ensure social and ecological standards. Instead of social achievements, neoliberal globalization brings a deregulation race downwards. UN agreements create rights for persons instead of companies rather than one-way streets for enforcing corporate interests.
Radical changes are necessary to avert exploding inequality and corporate rule.
5 REASONS FOR A BINDING UN AGREEMENT REGULATING CORPORATIONS


{This article published on 3/6/2018 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.anders.handels.at.}


Countless cases of human rights violations by corporations show that voluntary self-commitments of businesses cannot ensure social and ecological standards. As one example, the Lidl supermarket chain boasted about good labor standards in its subcontractors. However, catastrophic working conditions were uncovered in Lidl's supposedly showcase factories in Bangladesh: excessive working hours, wage deductions as sanctions for alleged crimes, poor overtime remuneration, prevention of union work, humiliations and discrimination of women. All this violates employee rights defined in the ILO conventions. Transnational corporations are not bound to those (and also to the human rights)... Binding rules and instruments protect persons and nature. Here are the five most important reasons why a binding UN agreement on regulating corporations is needed.


1. Enforcing human rights


Corporate profits are amassed systematically from human rights violations and the exploitation of natural resources - whether in the mining-, oil- or agricultural sectors, the textile-, food or electronics industries. Besides working conditions violating human rights, companies hire private security forces to violently suppress protests, rob and pollute land and water and destroy the foundations of life of the local population. A UN agreement should obligate corporations to observe human rights in their international activities.


2. End impunity


In the past, the community of states could only agree on a non-binding catalogue of recommendations: the UN principles for the economy and human rights. The victims of offenses have practically no chance for compensation and repatriation. Businesses go unpunished. Agreements would close this gap, make possible trials of companies and ensure victims rights to compensation.


3. Stop competition of states


To mazimize their profits, companies locate their subsidiary- and supplier firms where labor-, social- and environmental standards are trifling. States are in competition. Instead of social achievements, neoliberal globalization brings a deregulation race downwards. Agreements would take away companies' power to play off states against each other.


4. Regulations instead of privileges for companies


Companies create expedient legal frameworks through lobbying and rece4ive more and more privileges. So trade agreements like TTIP, CETA and Co. privatize the law through private tribunals. Multilateral trade tribunals for corporate lawsuits against states desired by the European Union also undermine democracy. UN agreements would create rights for persons instead of companies rather than one-way streets for enforcing corporate interests.


5. Let us use this historic chance!


Since the 1970s, there were many attempts at binding regulations for corporations that failed in the resistance of the economic lobbies. Many things are different this time. The civil society pressure over years - the so-called Treaty Alliance of around 1000 organizations, movements, and networks supported internationally - bears fruit. In 2014, the majority of the UN Human Rights Council supported the resolution for an agreement brought by Ecuador and South Africa. Thus, there is now a mandate for the first time to work out such an agreement that is binding in international law. Austria voted against the resolution at that time and since then has not worked constructively in the process. Let us together put pressure on the government to support the process since Austria is also obliged to protect human rights.

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