Call for a binding treaty – CIDSE

Call for a binding treaty

Binding Treaty to Regulate Corporate Power is Essential for a Better Tomorrow: Statement of member organizations of the Treaty Alliance in response to the COVID-19 crisis

We, the undersigning organizations, all members of the Treaty Alliance are concerned by the challenging situation generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social impact of the measures adopted to contain the contagion, including its differential impact on women. We wish to express our solidarity to those particularly affected by the disease and the lockdown measures, the millions of marginalised people who are at the intersection of multiple situations of vulnerability and for whom physical distancing mitigation is not an option.

COVID-19 patently confirms the analysis that we have collectively produced over the years. The extreme risks and threats that our societies are confronted with in facing the pandemic today are closely connected to the  failures of our economic, political and social systems to realize human rights and environmental protection. For several years now, we have been disclosing the structural pathogenesis of a financialised globalization that has aggravated inequalities within and between countries, in the context of the intergovernmental negotiations for the Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, currently undergoing under the auspices of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Our societies are for example ill equipped to respond to the pandemic, due to a range of significant failures that deregulated globalization adjustment plans and concentration of power of corporations   have  determined in the last decades.   

Limitless resource grabbing has broken the borders between ecosystems, leading to viruses naturally hosted in animals to transit into human beings. 

Market-solutions and the processes of privatization imposed on the public health, care and social protection sectors have significantly contributed to the weakening of public health, care and social protection even in countries equipped with national health systems, which has dramatically caused the lack of preparedness and insufficient capacity of most national responses to the dire health needs triggered  by the pandemic. 

The industrialization and globalization of food systems has reduced local food producers’ capacity to make healthy food available to nourish people locally, while ultra-processed food increases people’s vulnerability to COVID-19, both from the health and financial perspective. It’s a cruel reality that in the midst of a looming food crisis, agricultural production by local farmers – those who provide between the 70 and 80% of healthy food worldwide-  has been sacrificed due to lockdown measures. On the other hand, contagion mitigation measures in most countries have worked in the interest of the big agri-food chains, which offered no comparative advantage from a risk management point of view.

Global labour flexibilization has increased the amount of informal workers whose precariousness is today the collateral pandemic of COVID-19. This is especially affecting women, who are majoritarily in the most precarious, “flexible” and terciarised jobs. Domestic workers as well as jobs in the trade and services sectors are highly feminised, which adds up to the current gender pay gap. Millions of them have lost their incomes since the beginning of the outbreak, which is dramatically worsening their personal, family and community life conditions. Where no social welfare is in place, millions of formal and informal workers are sliding into poverty or extreme poverty. 

The digitalization of education in the lockdown, with only private facilities available and only for those who can pay for the technologies drastically excludes the many children from families unable to cover immatriculation costs and the costs of the tools used for teaching activities in this emergency. Simultaneously, it puts a heavier care burden on women. Even in those countries where there is public access, the general assumption is that women will be at home taking care of the children and providing the support of families during lockdown. Data available at national level provide increasing evidence that the technological option to replace teaching in presence is an additional driver of exclusion in view of the unaddressed digital divide and crisis of care. 

The priority given by certain governments to war preparedness and military expenditures in their national budgets, including through support to a “never in crisis” weapons industry, has distracted immense resources to the defence sector, thereby structuring national budgets and industrial sectors according to needless priorities. Due to capture of the States corporations, the weapons industry, the extractive industry and other major industries, existing policies are harming us and are infringing upon our human rights.  

Through exploitation, dispossession and direct abuses of human and environmental rights, and corporate capture of public policy making, corporate power is now working to maintain a dominant economic system that prioritizes company profits over the realization of human rights. This strategy has not only exposed States’ weakened or non existing production capacity for the range of health tools needed to contain the spread of the disease at home, but it has also tragically endangered States’ capacity and financial availability to adequately respond to the needed social expenditures and transferences on a massive scale. 

Governments have difficult choices to make in these unprecedented times, largely as a legacy of much abusive corporate behavior that States have not been able nor willing to govern, notwithstanding its adverse impact on human and environmental rights. The scale of corporate control over government is an endemic source of pathogenesis, whose inefficiency has finally been brought to the fore as a point of non-return by the COVID-19 global outbreak, in favour of a societal quest for reclaiming the responsibility of public services.  But we are not there, yet.   

Some witnesses from different communities in our movement have reported that companies engaged in extractive projects abuse lockdowns to skip informed consent provisions.  Others have explained how middle men are taking advantage of the health crisis to pay small food producers less while increasing prices in the cities, with the excuse of the lockdown. Other groups have disclosed the bias of national pandemic measures largely favoring the agro-industry and its distribution channels, while the support offered to peasants is mostly through private insurance schemes. Abuses of the rights of agricultural workers include shift extensions, combined with total negligence regarding poor housing, inadequate food and sanitary conditions, in violation of physical distancing measures imposed by governments. Mass dismissals of workers have also been reported by our members in several countries. 

While information is an essential precondition for the exercise of any right, in the wake of Covid-19 a number of tech companies have seen a surge in their business during this crisis. Some have already obtained enormous users’ personal data that can track people and infringe on their right to privacy. In contrast, due to policies largely influenced by corporations, the right to access information is being restricted or suspended. This creates a major obstacle in access to remedy for people whose rights are being infringed. 

The ground for testing the will and the power of governments vis a vis the corporate sector in the context of COVID19 is coming soon with regard to access to the essential health goods and equipment – vaccines, medicines and all other medical devices – that will be developed and produced to control and fight the new coronavirus. Pharmaceutical companies have arguably taken steps in countries to benefit from the current race to the cure against COVID19 already (cfr. Gilead orphan drug request to FDA), and they are using their massive corporate power to oppose governments’ measures to smoothen patent exception procedures in countries, as well as any other collective intergovernmental initiative to develop and produce vaccines and medicines as global public goods, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The dominant economic system allows big corporations to allocate a significant amount of funding to mitigate the impacts of lockdown measures and the looming economic crisis on their profit-making. In this setting, corporations are influencing international and national legislative and policy decisions to benefit their profit margins.  

The many irrefutable lessons from COVID-19 lead us all to one converging direction, namely the importance of introducing and advancing legal frameworks, at national, regional and international level, to ensure corporate accountability with respect to human and environmental rights. In this much needed global effort to overcome a system of deregulation and advance governments’ standard- setting capacity, the negotiation process around the Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and Other Business Enterprises (OBEs) with respect to human rights must continue. Ultimately, with the new normal, we need new norms. We need legally binding arrangements through which the right to social protection and healthcare, the right to food and water, the right to education and employment, the right to a healthy environment, right to information, right to privacy, the right to freedom of assembly are properly addressed, promoted, and protected by the State, as key elements for the transformative change  we want to see towards substantive democracy and sustainable development. If we are serious about the Agenda 2030, a legally binding instrument to regulate corporate power is the concrete step we need in order to move in the direction of justice,rule of law and true sustainability for all; the best vaccine to prevent pandemics like the current one.

Nothing will be the same,  it is often said. But change will not happen by itself.  This means that COVID-19 offers an extraordinary opportunity for embracing communities’ expertise and social movements’ knowledge into shaping the new societies where planet’s rights and human dignity prevail over corporate profit.  After the COVID19, the active participation of grassroots communities, social movements and civil society organizations in the Binding Treaty process and in any similar normative route at national or regional level is of even greater relevance. These are the people who at the end will have suffered the highest price of the pandemic, not just in terms of their health. These are the people who will have accompanied and supported those in greater needs during the pandemic. These are the people who will know best the impact of  removing the ground rules of a disciplined society in a scenario of mounting inequalities, sadly fuelled by the impact of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis tells us that we need societies in which effective accountability mechanisms are in place.  Therefore, we urge all national authorities, and particularly the member states’ delegations of the Human Rights Council, to make all efforts possible to continue advancing towards the adoption of a Binding Instrument on Transnational Companies and OBEs, strengthening the diplomatic route and ensuring effective participation of those actors that truly pursue democracy, accountability and the public interest. 

These processes should pave the way to building the new normality in which present and future generations can enjoy the results of states commitments enshrined in the bill of rights and in our national constitutions.


Please see below list of names and organizations who have already signed on:

  1. FIAN International
  2. Dominicans for Justice and Peace (Order of Preachers)
  3. Réseau International des Droits Humains RIDH
  4. Navdanya International
  5. Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ)
  6. Centre for Health Science and Law
  7. FIAN Switzerland
  8. Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
  9. Movendi International
  10. Jordens Vänner
  11. Global Policy Forum
  12. Meena Menon and Chandan Kumar
  13. Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND)
  14. WEED – World Economy, Ecology & Development
  15. France Amérique Latine (FAL)
  16. SÜDWIND – Institut für Ökonomie und Ökumene
  17. global social justice
  18. Society for International Development (SID)
  19. Campanya Catalunya No als Tractats de Comerç i Inversió
  21. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo SJ” (CSMM)
  22. Grupo de Trabajo Suiza Colombia ask!
  23. Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos-Peru EQUIDAD
  24. entraide et fraternité
  25. ActionAid International
  26. ALTSEAN-Burma
  27. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  28. Les Mêmes Droits pour Tous
  29. Amis de la Terre France
  31. AMDH ( Association Marocaine des Droits Humains)
  32. Comite de Defensa del Patrimonio Nacional E
  33. Aitec
  34. Commonwealth Human Rights Organization  (CHRI)
  35. PPSS/Anti-Jindal & Anti-POSCO Movement
  36. Socialist Workers & Youth League
  37. Attac France
  38. APDHE-Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos España
  39. African Coalition for Corporate Accountability
  40. medico international
  41. Public Services International
  42. Fondazione Finanza Etica
  43. Commission Justice et Paix
  44. Ecologistas en Acción
  45. Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”
  46. FIAN Sri Lanka
  47. FIAN Belgium
  48. Jorge Fonseca Castro
  50. Ruchi Shroff
  51. Maryanne Stone-Jimenez
  52. Thomas Schwarz, Executive Secretary, MMI Network
  53. Stella Jobin
  54. Carola Mejía
  55. Atif Abdel Mageed Mohamed
  56. Individual
  57. claudio schuftan
  58. Pablo A. de la Vega M.
  59. Maha Abdallah
  60. Edgar Mojica Vanegas
  61. Alaa Talbi
  62. Gabriela Franco
  63. itzel fernandez pando
  64. Reinaldo Villalba Vargas
  65. ÀLTSEAN-Burma
  66. Fresh Eyes
  67. Herr Prof Andreas Neef
  68. Tomaso Ferrando
  69. FIAN Sweden
  70. FIAN Germany
  71. Prof. Anne C Bellows
  72. Badil
  73. Karin Hooijberg
  74. Consejo de Investigación en Desarrollo
  75. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
  76. Transnational Institute
  77. Transnational Institute
  78. Tina Wirnsberger
  79. Sigrid Kroismayr
  80. ONG Ecosistemas – Chile
  81. FIAN Internacional sección Honduras
  82. Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition
  83. Transform!at
  84. Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine
  85. Center for Peace Education & Community Development
  86. FIAN Colombia
  87. Gestos (soropositividade, comunicação, gênero)
  88. Success Capital Organisation
  89. Association For Promotion Sustainable Development
  90. Sinéad Meade
  91. Temple of Understanding
  92. Angelo Stefanini
  93. Luisa Cruz Hefti
  94. Toni Peratoner
  95. Global Forest Coalition
  96. Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia
  97. Tripla Difesa Onlus
  98. FIAN México
  99. Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos – Perú EQUIDAD
  100. FIAN Ecuador
  101. Focus on the Global South
  102. Elli Jost
  103. Hazel Lavitoria
  104. Fidh
  105. Lisa Sterzinger
  106. CNCD-11.11.11
  107. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  108. Solifonds
  109. FIAN Austria
  110. Transnational Migrant Platform-Europe
  111. Tetet Nera-Lauron
  112. DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era)
  113. MultiWatch
  114. World March of Women-Turkey
  115. Ekumenická akademie (Ecumenical Academy, Czech Republic)
  116. Adriano Cattaneo
  117. Sonja Stara
  118. FOCO Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos
  119. Cristianne Famer Rocha
  120. mines, mineral &People
  121. CIDSE
  122. WIDE+ (Women In Development Europe+)
  123. Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos – Peru EQUIDAD
  124. Corporate Accountability
  125. Movimento Águas e Serras de Casa Branca, Brumadinho, Brasil
  126. Justiça nós Trilhos, Brasil
  127. Justiça nos Trilhos
  128. Network Social Responsibility
  129. Sofia Manukyan
  130. Policies for Equitable Access to Health (PEAH)
  131. Human Dignity
  132. Madhyam (New Delhi, India)
  134. Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations
  135. Alliance for Food Soverignity in Africa
  136. CMAT
  137. African Centre for Biodiversity
  138. Hope for Rural Women Assembly
  139. FIAN Austria
  140. IRPAD/Afrique
  141. European Network against the Privatization and Commercialization of Health and Social Protection
  142. Ethiopian Society for Consumer Protection
  143. Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE)
  144. Samuel Huard
  145. Bria Scott
  146. Observatorio Ciudadano Chile
  147. CORE Coalition UK
  148. C. Clare Hinrichs
  149. Katrin Seifried
  150. Centre for human rights and development 
  151. Coordination Nationale de la Plate Forme Paysanne du Niger
  152. Sarah Munera
  153. María Inés Alcayaga
  154. WSM
  155. Plataforma Boliviana frente al Cambio Climático
  156. Trócaire
  157. Martha Lucia Gomez
  158. horia ros
  159. dutilloy marie
  160. Shiney Varghese
  161. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  162. Maria Chiara
  163. Elisabeth Lamour
  164. Najoua Baccar (ATFD)
  165. Libertad Argüello
  166. Abraham Palafox Gastelum
  167. Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario MX
  168. UNISON
  169. Fian Indonesia
  170. Andrea Casale
  171. Associazione di Studi e Informazione sulla Salute Italia
  172. Medicina Democratica odv
  173. Barbara Grandi
  174. Fulvio Aurora
  175. SEATINI South Africa
  176. FIAN Brasil
Share this content on social media