by Jake Anderson
An international organization known as the Treaty Alliance, representing over 500 different human rights advocacy groups in over 85 countries, has taken great strides in persuading the United Nations to draft a treaty that would protect the human rights of individuals worldwide from being abused by the unchecked power of corporations.
The treaty that the alliance is demanding, if drafted, would require the members of the United Nations to implement a more stringent legal framework limiting the power of corporations that do business within their borders as well as the international business operations of multinational corporations. Corporations that operate in multiple countries, and have operations that cross national borders, are often woefully under-monitored by the governing bodies they operate in due to the interactions of multiple legal frameworks. This laxity of law enforcement frequently leads to the corporation’s entry level employees, as well as the customers and other citizens who are not employed by the corporations, suffering financial and even physical abuse at the hands of the corporation heads exploiting their power.
People victimized by the actions of big businesses frequently have no legal recourse, as in many countries, the laws are designed to protect the corporations first in the name of “free trade”. Corporations also are able to afford much more comprehensive legal representation, thus out-maneuvering any official attempt by their victims to seek redress of grievances.
When a business spans several countries, questions of jurisdiction and the interaction between multiple sets of laws can further confuse the issue. The victims of corporate rights abuse can find themselves “lost in the shuffle” and their cries for help obfuscated by a company that doesn’t want to answer for its crimes.
The Treaty Alliance is calling for a solution to these issues by appealing to the United Nations, to enact a treaty that would unify the discrete legal frameworks of its member states into one universal system, to protect the individual from the corporation and to eliminate the “lost cases” due to bureaucratic difficulties.
The Treaty Alliance’s formal statement, and the means by which more signatories might lend their voice to the choir, can be found here: www.treatymovement.com/statement
The demand for such a treaty has already been endorsed by a number of organizations in both public and private sectors, and more supporters are joining the cause. As of this writing, there is no publicly-known dissent for such a move. Given that the treaty would advance basic human rights, the only groups that might be against such a treaty are those corporations with past grievances to hide. Because corporations are dependent on customers and a positive public image to continue to profit, any corporation that publicly opposes this move would be committing socio-economic suicide as they drive away all potential customers and business partners. It therefore seems likely that the movement will encounter little, if any, resistance.
There may, however, still be difficulties in the successful drafting and enforcement of such a treaty. Each member nation would have to agree on the best means by which to protect the human rights of its citizens, and then would have to either form an independent force tasked with enforcing the treaty, or else each country would have to enforce the treaty through its own existing law enforcement system.