Posts Tagged ‘Economic rights’

Jackie Smith sees a world that prioritizes people over economic growth

March 3, 2020

Jackie Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and the editor of the Journal of World Systems Research, published a piece called “Human rights, not corporate rights” in Open Democracy of 26 February 2020. It is an excerpt of an essay published as part of a series by the Great Transition Initiative. To view the full series, click here. Jackie Smith argues that human rights offer a powerful framework for challenging corporate hegemony and creating a more just and sustainable world.

The growth and concentration of corporate power is one that deserves far more attention and critical analysis than it has received in academic and policy circles.

Capitalist globalization policies over recent decades have helped corporations grow and consolidate wealth on a global scale, which they have used to further concentrate market and political influence. The number of transnational corporations in the top 100 economic entities – including both corporations and governments – jumped to 69 in 2015 from around 50 at the turn of the twenty-first century. National governments are no longer the most powerful entities, and their position is continuing to slide as corporations grow. Alarmingly, among the leading industries are those most in need of governance for the sake of the common good: namely, those dependent on the perpetuation of our carbon-intensive economy, financial speculation, wasteful consumption, and the commodification of health care.

While corporate power has grown, the power of workers and communities has been steadily eroded by neoliberal globalization. The decline of trade unions and the growth of precarious work, fueled by the evangelization of neoliberal principles by economists and political leaders in governments and global institutions like the World Bank, have reduced the ability of people and communities to come together to advance a different vision of how the world could be organized. Cities have been hamstrung by budget constraints as they contend with effects of neoliberal globalization such as rising housing costs, effects of climate change, and social polarization. At the same time, critics of corporate globalization in the academy have been neutralized by the corporatization of universities and the polarization and commodification of political and media discourses. Indeed, we might say that today, global hegemony is exercised not by a national state or collection of states, but by the owners and managers of global corporations.

It is imperative, then, that scholars and activists do far more to focus on this critical issue and help find ways to challenge more directly the role of corporations in society today. Corporate concentration and market monopolization – enabled by US international economic policies, weak antitrust laws and implementation, corporate taxation, campaign financing, and other – undermine human rights in cities and communities worldwide.

By supporting human rights globalization as a counter-movement to corporate globalization, we can advance people-centered policies and build upon earlier work of transformative movements worldwide.

The United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process gives local human rights defenders one way of fighting back. US human rights defenders have recently challenged predatory corporate practices in a report to the United Nations. The report highlighted the impacts of corporations on local human rights, democratic political participation, housing, health, and racial and gender equity. It documented at great length the extent to which corporate practices violate government commitments in both national and international legal instruments.

While the UN process is limited in its ability to change behaviors of recalcitrant governments, what is powerful about international human rights treaties and institutional processes like the UPR is their ability to help social movements come together across various divides and promote a shared vision of the world we wish to see. Paraphrasing Frederick Douglass, human rights activists like to remind skeptics that those in power have never ceded power without popular pressure: “Human rights don’t trickle down, they rise up!”

The process of compiling UPR reports and then working to follow up with them helps groups and activists articulate shared priorities and visions of justice that account for global and historical omissions in local and national discourses. The UPR does not simply track violations but centers concrete remedies in the formal reports it makes to national governments. It is here that local activists have found opportunities to forge alliances with local government officials, who see value in using the international stage to amplify their pleas for federal funding to support social welfare needs. Thus, the UPR process helps build new community collaborations and foster public discourse and consciousness-raising around human rights as an alternative framework.

Corporate hegemony has constrained the political discourse and the political imagination we need to envision and fight for a world that prioritizes people and communities over economic growth and endless consumption. Although the odds seem daunting, global ideals and institutions that have been slowly and steadily advanced by human rights advocates over centuries may provide tools for advancing new projects and strategies that can realize human-centered policies and a more just and sustainable world.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/human-rights-not-corporate-rights/

Philippines nun speaks strongly against arrest of church worker Yadao

September 13, 2013

I remember from my visit to the Philippines in the early 80s that the nuns were extraordinarily active in the area of human rights (that was under Marcos). I was reminded of this when I saw the Bulalat report of 13 September that a long-time lay worker of a Catholic-run organization was arrested by elements of the Philippine Army on 8 September and the fierce reaction by Sister Somogod.

Joel Yadao (in gray shirt) attends an activity of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region in June 2012. (Photo courtesy of RMP-NMR)

(Joel Yadao (in gray shirt) in June 2012. Photo courtesy of RMP-NMR) Read the rest of this entry »

NGOs give cautious welcome to UK Government’s Action plan on human rights & business, but want better enforcement

September 11, 2013

The UK government recently launched an Action Plan on Business and Human Rights by Vince Cable and William Hague.

On 5 September the CORE Coalition, whose members include Amnesty International, Oxfam, CAFOD and War on Want, supported by the Trades Union Congress, share the plan’s clear expectation that UK companies respect human rights throughout their global operations and supply chains, but question whether the governments proposals will be sufficient to reduce corporate abuses. CORE calls on the government to take effective steps to ensure companies respect human rights. The plan builds on the government’s commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, agreed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. The principles set out what states need to do to protect people from corporate human rights abuses and the actions that businesses should take to respect human rights. “While it’s positive that the plan sets out clear expectations for UK companies to respect human rights wherever they operate and explicitly applies to businesses’ supply chains in the UK and overseas, there’s little clarity on how the government’s approach will require companies with the worst human rights records to change their behaviour. Sharing good practice and offering guidance for businesses are important but are not enough on their own,” said Marilyn Croser, Coordinator of the CORE Coalition. Anne Lindsay, CAFOD’s Lead Analyst on the Private Sector said: “For local communities in countries such as Colombia, Peru and the Philippines, the key question is, will this action plan prevent abuses of human rights by companies or just maintain the status quo? We welcome the references to protection of human rights defenders and investment agreements for example, but these principles need to be linked to a much more comprehensive set of follow up actions.” Oxfam’s Robert Nash, Private Sector Policy Adviser added: “This is a welcome signal to businesses that corporate abuses must be tackled. However, plans must go further to strengthen protection for vulnerable communities and the means for them to seek redress. This includes identifying and addressing failures on vital issues like the governance of land, transparency and accountability of investments, human rights requirements and empowering women, who are often the most at risk yet the most likely to be excluded from having their voices heard.” The absence of clear commitments to improve access to justice for victims of corporate human rights abuse overseas and the reliance on voluntary corporate self-governance to ensure businesses respect for human rights is of particular concern to CORE and its member organisations. Murray Worthy, Senior Economic Justice Campaigner at War on Want commented: “This plan places the burden of responsibility for businesses’ respect for human rights in the hands of the companies responsible for violations of human rights. Such voluntary self-regulation has been found wanting for years. It failed to prevent the deaths through negligence of over 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers in the Rana Plaza disaster earlier this year. Now the government wants to extend this model so that even private military and security companies become self-regulating. The government needs to be more rigorous in preventing human rights abuses by UK companies.” Meanwhile, Owen Tudor, Head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department, said: “Global businesses mustn’t be allowed to avoid their ethical duties, and governments must work with unions and campaigners to hold them to account… The UN and the ILO have set international standards for corporate behaviour and this action plan is a key element in making sure multi-nationals meet those standards. Globalisation has let too many businesses undercut livelihoods at home by exploiting people abroad. Unions will seek to build on this action plan but won’t hesitate to demand stronger action if it is needed.”

via UK action plan on human rights urged to go beyond business as usual | Ekklesia.

Animated Introduction to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (and NGOs) now out

November 23, 2012

This is the second part of the series “Focus Human Rights” that I referred to in an earlier post. It deals with the second dimension of the Human Rights system: The Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Additionally, it explains women’s rights and shows how NGOs in the Human Rights sector work. Especially the latter part seems somewhat forced into this second volume as they operate in both areas to say the least. It has also a rather strange reference to the International Society for Human Rights which is listed with AI, HRW and HRF as an example of well-known NGOs, while it is in fact fairly small and – outside Germany – without much influence.

The clips are done by Jan Künzl and Jörn Barkemeyer, who welcome comments.

More information about the project:
http://www.edeos.org/en/projects.html

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