The world’s largest social movement has slammed the power of transnational companies for undermining democracy and stifling people’s voices on a global scale, saying the interests of large corporations increasingly dominate international decision-making processes and policies.
“We are seeing an increase in the criminalisation of trade unionists, environmentalists, and peasant farmers who are struggling for their human rights or for the rights of Nature.”
La Via Campesina, an organization representing over 200 million farmers and rural people worldwide, called for opening up international policy-making spaces to the grassroots participation of those impacted by decisions on Friday.
The group also called for social movements to play a role in developing appropriate 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,” wrote the organization in a statement.
Cartoons illustrate the corporate grabbing of peasants seeds and how peasants resist. pic.twitter.com/irwGXs15uJ— La Via Campesina (@via_campesina) April 10, 2015
According to La Via Campesina, 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 criminalized.
“We are seeing an increase in the criminalisation of trade unionists, environmentalists, and peasant farmers who are struggling for their human rights or for the rights of Nature,” wrote La Via Campesina. “In Honduras alone, hundreds of women and men peasants have been put on trial for defending their rights.”
Activists pointed to transnational trade deals like the TPP and TTIP as examples of corporate power run out of control. Critics slam these trade agreements for the expanded protections they afford to foreign investors and for undermining public health, efforts to combat climate change, and safety standards in favor of safeguarding corporate profits.
According to La Via Campesina, 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,” wrote the organization, adding that it welcomes the U.N. 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.
But while La Via Campesina has proposed food sovereignty as an alternative model based in solidarity and grassroots community initiatives, 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,” wrote La Via Campesina, “there is a continuous lack of structural and sustainable solutions.”