World's largest social movement: How corporations kill democracy

July 19, 2015

The world’s largest social movement, La Via Campesina, has slammed the power of transnational companies for undermining democracy and stifling people’s voices on a global scale.

The group, which represents more than 200 million farmers and rural people worldwide, said the interests of large corporations increasingly dominate international decision-making processes and policies.

“We are seeing a rise in the criminalisation of trade unionists, environmentalists, and peasant farmers who are struggling for their human rights or for the rights of nature,” the group said.

In a July 10 statement, La Via Campesina called for opening up international policy-making spaces to the grassroots participation of those affected by decisions. The group also called for social movements to play a role in developing consultation mechanisms and processes to better ensure the rights of communities are respected.

“We need new transparent, participatory, processes of democratisation that are open and clear to all, and that, instead of oppression, allow the expression of the sovereignty of the peoples in the world of today,” the group said.

La Via Campesina said the impunity enjoyed by corporations allows environmental damage and human rights abuses committed by transnational companies to go unpunished, while the social movements and grassroots communities fighting to defend their rights to life and livelihood are increasingly criminalised.

“In Honduras alone, hundreds of women and men peasants have been put on trial for defending their rights,” the group said.

Activists pointed to transnational trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership as examples of corporate power run out of control. Critics slam these trade agreements for the expanded protections they afford foreign investors and for undermining public health, efforts to combat climate change, and safety standards in favour of safeguarding corporate profits.

La Via Campesina said these deals pave the way to create a “permanent confusion” between public and private interests. For La Via Campesina, corporate power must be confronted at all levels, not just internationally.

“We need legally binding national, regional and international mechanisms to put an end to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by transnational companies,” the group said, adding that it welcomes the United Nations move to adopt a binding treaty on corporations and human rights.

Individual governments also have a role to play, says La Via Campesina, and the right of countries and people to exercise sovereignty and self-determination must be respected internationally.

La Via Campesina has proposed food sovereignty as an alternative model based in solidarity and grassroots community initiatives, but said the struggle to achieve widespread change in an exploitive system is an uphill battle.

“Due to pressure to maintain the status quo or to a fear of restricting the profits of the few,” La Via Campesina said, “there is a continuous lack of structural and sustainable solutions.”

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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