Corporate Power


In October, TNI helped bring together 100 representatives of key social movements for a week of mobilisation in support of a binding treaty on transnational corporations.

Corporations have become immensely powerful in recent decades, capturing the state and international bodies, privatizing democracy, determining economic and social policy, and putting in place a trade and investment agenda that gives them extensive rights and effective impunity for violations of human rights or destruction of the environment. TNI has helped build an international campaign to hold transnational corporations legally accountable and to support frontline communities seeking justice for corporate crimes, an end to impunity and the building of collective alternatives.

Goal (2016-2020): Move towards the establishment of a treaty for binding regulations for transnational corporations, which would end impunity, and secure justice for communities affected by corporate abuses.

Goals (2020) Outcomes in 2016 to which TNI contributed
Build an international coalition of civil society organizations working toward an Treaty on TNCs at the UN level, advocating binding norms in relation to human rights and corporate activities and mechanisms that provide access to justice for affected communities.
  • 17 new organizations active at the continental and international level joined the Stop Corporate Impunity network.
  • Strengthening of the network in North America (new collaboration with Corporate Accountability International), and in the farmers’ rights sector (stronger working relations with La Via Campesina and FIAN) and new work on labour and migrant issues (with TUCA, WWM, TMP-E).
  • More than 100 activists from 29 countries – representing unions, peasant organizations, environmental organizations, youth, women, indigenous peoples, migrants and the access to medicines movements – convened in Geneva to participate in and observe the proceedings of the UN Human Rights Council in October 2016. Participants made 40 oral statements to the session’s six panels.
  • New relationships were formed with parliamentarians as a result of two public meetings at the European Parliament, as well as a round table during the World Parliamentarian Forum in Quebec.
  • Holding of Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal in Manzini, Swaziland on the occasion of the SADC Heads of State Summit built awareness and movement in Southern Africa with the participation of organizations presenting 11 cases from six countries. Over 500 people attended.
A significant number of governments engage in the Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) working on a binding instrument on TNCs and human rights.
  • Thanks to strong lobbying, EU governments engaged with the process rather than obstructing negotiations.
  • Stop Corporate Impunity activities in March, June and October at UN side-events, contributions to plenaries and outside mobilizations acknowledged as increasing engagement of governments.
  • Within European Parliament, debate shifted from a focus on voluntary codes to a binding instrument.
  • Catalan Parliament approved resolution supporting UN binding agreement.
The proposals of the International Peoples Treaty are made more concrete in order to develop more effective juridical strategies of resistance and access to justice.
  • With TNI’s facilitation, Stop Corporate Impunity network presented six points/demands for consideration by the OEIGWG.
  • A permanent peoples’ tribunal in Manzini, Swaziland on the occasion of the SADC Heads of State Summit, heard 11 cases of corporate impunity from six countries. Over 500 people attended the formal PPT hearing.
The coalition of civil society organizations develops effective strategies to tackle corporate power.
  • Catalan Centre on Transnational Corporations (and potential International Peoples’ Centre on Corporate Impunity) received  official support of the Catalan Parliament through a Resolution on 3 November 2016, with the City Council of Barcelona  proposing financial support.
  • TNI developed factsheets with representatives of affected communities (MAB, Brazil and UDAPT, Ecuador) illustrating corporate impunity.
  • Improved media work in Spanish with articles in El Pais, Revista de la Jornada, and Publico.
Increased awareness on corporate capture of institutions of democracy.
  • Global Campaign began work on the issue of privatization of democracy, in particular with Brazilian, US, South African and European partners, developing a paper and organizing a dedicated workshop in October.

Project in numbers

  • 17 new organizations join the Stop Corporate Impunity Campaign
  • Co-organized 13 workshops attended by 1,635 people
  • Nine meetings with key policy-makers
  • State of power report read by 9,051 people

Exposing the impacts of mining corporations in Southern Africa

In August, TNI supported 11 communities from six countries in Southern Africa to gather and share experiences of the activities of mining firms in their regions. The communities came together at a Permanent Peoples' Tribunal held in Manzini, Swaziland, which collated disturbing accounts of corporate abuses and impunity as well as inspiring stories of resistance and struggle.

Nonhle Mbuthuma was one of the many powerful women leaders present, at the forefront of resistance against extractivism in the continent. She leads the Amadiba Crisis Committee resisting titanium mining by Australian company Mineral Commodities (MRC) in the sand dunes of Xolobeni, on the Wild Coast, South Africa. She took on the leadership shortly after the assassination of its former leader Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe by unknown gunmen, suspected of links to MRC. Undeterred by the dangers, she proclaimed adamantly at the tribunal that “We are not going be intimidated. MRC will never mine in our land. Mining here will not only destroy our present but also our future.”

The cases were heard by a distinguished panel of international jurors and included testimonies on the destructive activities of Tendele mining and Ibutho coal in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa; Glencore in MinesKitwe, Northern Zambia and Shanduka in Zimbabwe; Maloma Colliery in the Nsoko and Lubombo regions of Swaziland; Anhui and Jinan Mining in Marange, Zimbabwe; as well as Vale and Jindal in Tete Province, northern Mozambique. Gianni Tognoni, one of the jurors, explained the power of the Tribunal as it allowed people “to present their cases not as victims but as true subjects of international law”. This is key to the growing international movement against corporate impunity that believes international law must be constructed from the bottom-up and change the balance of power between TNCs and communities.

The tribunal concluded that each of the cases provided “sufficient evidence that the communities exposed to the intervention on their lands and life by TNCs are victims (individually and collectively) of severe and systematic violations of their rights to life and human dignity” but also noted the “incredible will and capacity for peaceful and creative resistance” by the affected communities. The tribunal was a pivotal moment in building collaboration between different communities, movements and networks in Southern Africa resisting corporate globalization and human rights violations. It will also help strengthen the growing international movement against corporate impunity. The tribunal will be followed up with a second session in 2017 examining struggles of workers, women and resistance on issues of land sovereignty and agriculture.

“There is a major legal gap in international human rights law that needs to be closed to end the impunity for human rights violations committed by TNCs. This must be the main objective of this new legally binding international instrument that will be developed by the UN Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights.”
Building a UN Treaty on Human Rights and TNCs – Proposals from the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity.

Building support for an international treaty

In October, TNI helped bring together 100 delegates from 29 countries, representing communities affected by corporate impunity to influence and accompany the work of the Open-Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. This group, under the aegis of the UN Human Rights Council, is working towards developing a treaty to tackle corporate impunity. This working group was the result of long, effective campaigning by TNI and others that led to its historic establishment in 2014.

During the UN week of mobilisation, TNI also co-organised a demonstration outside Trafigura, a global commodities corporation.
During the UN week of mobilisation, TNI also co-organised a demonstration outside Trafigura, a global commodities corporation.

In the run-up to the 2016 meetings, TNI helped carry out an in-depth consultation with legal experts and the entire Stop Corporate Impunity coalition to coalesce demands into six key points. These were presented to the governments negotiating the establishment of a treaty. During the meetings themselves, TNI followed an inside-outside strategy, supporting affected communities to engage with officials inside the event as well as organizing public workshops concluding the week of mobilization with a mass demonstration at the corporation Trafigura's headquarters – one of the biggest global commodities corporations.

In 2016, the campaign won a powerful new ally, Alfredo-Maurice de Zayas, UN independent expert on a democratic and equitable international economic order, who argued it was time to move from a voluntary corporate-led approach to addressing corporate human rights abuses towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument. Following concerted pressure, the EU and its member states began to engage rather than obstruct the UN Inter-Governmental Working Group discussions. The Ecuadorian president of the working group also praised the work of the Global Campaign facilitated by TNI.

Meanwhile, with TNI’s support, the global campaign to stop corporate impunity continues to grow. TNI supports three staff, one each in South Africa, India and Brazil, to build the campaign amongst academics, civil society organizations and government officials. In India, the campaign was actively promoted amongst Indians CSOs at the BRICS from Below summit in October. It was also on the agenda of land and environmental campaigners at the ISS colloquium on land in February, Plan B movement for Europe in Madrid and within the TTIP campaign in several European countries. There are now 212 members of the campaign.

[Box] Building a UN treaty on human rights and TNCs – six points summarized

  1. Corporations are legal persons and are bound to respect human rights
  2. Host states of TNCs have a duty to ensure that their corporations and their subsidiaries do not impair human rights wherever or however they operate
  3. An international tribunal on TNCs and human rights should be set up to complement national and regional mechanisms to guarantee enforcement of the Treaty and access to justice for affected communities
  4. New legal tools are needed to ensure liability for human rights abuses throughout complex production and labour supply chains and corporate structures
  5. International Financial Institutions’ policies and international trade treaties must be evaluated and changed in relation to a binding framework which affirms the supremacy of human  rights law
  6. The human rights of affected communities must be recognized and adequate support provided to overcome legal hurdles that prevent access to justice such as court costs and protracted processes

See the full six points at:

Uniting movements against acts of corporate impunity

The shocking human costs of corporate impunity were brought home starkly with the assassination of renowned indigenous activist, Berta Caceres, in Honduras in March 2016. Berta had been a firm defender of peasant and indigenous peoples' rights and led the struggle against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam whose construction had been imposed on indigenous territory without prior consultation. Her assassination by gunmen linked to the corporations invested in the project prompted an outpouring of grief and international solidarity, in which TNI actively participated through the international movement to stop corporate impunity.

TNI was part of an international ‘fact-finding’ delegation that travelled to Honduras in April and produced a report and recommendations to the government and the international community. TNI also hosted a lobby tour by the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders of Honduras to Europe in order to put pressure on the EU institutions and corporations funding the Agua Zarca dam and other destructive extractive projects in Honduras. As a result of TNI and others’ pressure, the Dutch development corporation FMO withdrew funding and has undertaken to exit the Agua Zarca project.


Brid Brennan
Project Coordinator

Diana Aguiar/Monica Vargas
Coordinator of Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity

Gonzalo Berrón
Research Associate, Brazil

Benny Kuruvilla
Research Associate, India

Sol Trumbo Vila
Project Officer

Matthijs Peters
Research Associate

Susan George
President of TNI

David Fig

Major publications



  • Bi-regional Europe-Latin America and the Caribbean Enlazando Alternativas Network
  • CADTM International
  • FIAN International
  • Friends of the Earth International
  • International Articulation of those Affected by Vale
  • La Via Campesina International
  • The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia
  • World March of Women
  • World Rainforest Movement


  • Amigos de la  Tierra América Latina y el Caribe – ATALC
  • CADTM – AYNA,  Americas
  • Focus on the  Global South, India/Thailand/Philippines
  • Hemispheric Social Alliance, Americas
  • Jubileo Sur Americas
  • Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo, Americas
  • Social Movements for an Alternative Asia


  • African Women Unite Against Destructive Natural Resource Extraction (WoMin), South Africa
  • Alternative Information Development Center (AIDC), South Africa
  • Bench Marks Foundation, South Africa
  • Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), Zambia
  • Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
  • Groundwork – Friends of the Earth South Africa
  • JA! Friends of the Earth, Mozambique
  • La Via Campesina Africa
  • Rural Women's Assembly Africa


  • ATTAC Argentina
  • Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA)
  • Brazilian Network for the Integration of the Peoples (REBRIP)
  • CDHAL, Canada
  • CEDIB, Bolivia
  • Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra Colombia
  • Corporate Accountability International, US
  • Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras, Perú
  • Educational Assistance (FASE), Brazil
  • Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD), El Salvador
  • Grassroots Global Justice, United States of America
  • Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) – Global Economy Project
  • Instituto Eqüit – Gênero, Economia e Cidadania Global, Brazil
  • Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul (PACS), Brazil
  • Justiça Global, Brazil
  • Mesa Nacional frente a Minería Metálica, El Salvador
  • Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB), Brazil
  • Movimiento Rios Vivos, Colombia
  • Polaris Institute, Canada
  • Red Muqui Sur, Peru
  • Terra de Direitos, Brazil
  • Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las Operaciones Petroleras de Texaco (UDAPT), Ecuador
  • Vigencia, Brazil

Asia (and Middle East)

  • Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), Philippines
  • Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippines
  • Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), Palestine
  • ATTAC, Morocco
  • EU-Asean Trade network, South-East Asia
  • Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia


  • ATTAC France
  • Centre Europe Tiers Monde (CETIM), Switzerland
  • Col·lectiu de Respostes a les Transnacionals (RETS), Catalunya, Spain
  • Coordination Climat Justice Sociale, Switzerland
  • Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Belgium
  • Ecologistas en Acción-Ekologistak Martxan – Ecologistes en Acció, Spain
  • Enginyeria sense Fronteras, Catalonia
  • Entrepueblos, Spain
  • France Amérique Latine (FAL), France
  • LAB, Euskal Herria
  • Milieudefensie – Friends of the Earth, Netherlands
  • Multiwatch, Switzerland
  • NOVACT, Spain
  • Observatório de la Deuda en la Globalización (ODG), Spain
  • Observatorio de Multinacionales en America Latina (OMAL), Spain
  • Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (RIDH), Switzerland
  • SolidaritéS, Switzerland
  • SOMO – Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, Netherlands
  • War on Want, United Kingdom

See full list on Stop Corporate Impunity website