ESCR-Net, founded in 2003, is a global network of more than 280 groups and individuals, primarily in the Global South, working to secure economic and social justice through human rights. Its mission is to advance the field of human rights in all its dimensions, with a particular emphasis on economic, social, and cultural rights, and to develop the tools for promoting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights. One of its core components is the Corporate Accountability Working Group (CAWG), which works frontally to stop corporate capture through its Corporate Capture Project, as well as transversally throughout ESCR-Net’s different programmatic areas.

In November 2013, ESCR-Net members met in Thailand and launched the Corporate Capture Project. This initiative sought to learn from the Network’s members about how corporate capture operates in their countries and territories and create programming to address this heretofore unidentified phenomenon, which, according to members, unanimously affects human rights globally. Through a multi-year survey and dialogue process, CAWG members refined their collective understanding of the corporate capture of the State, arriving at the following conclusions:

“By using corporate influence to soften regulation, weaken regulatory powers, bank-roll elections, utilize state security services against communities, exercise revolving-door employment strategies and many other practices, the ever deepening corporate-government relationship is weakening the State institutions and processes that are responsible for ensuring they can respect, protect and fulfill human rights. Conceptually, 'corporate capture' refers to the means by which an economic elite undermines the realization of human rights and the environment by exerting undue influence over domestic and international decision-makers and public institutions. In this sense, corporate capture acts as a ‘root cause’ of many corporate human rights abuses.
The Corporate Capture Project of the [CAWG] challenges corporate capture by researching, raising awareness, and supporting collective action to address this phenomenon. The project is led by a regionally and gender diverse Project Advisory Group (PAG) made up of ESCR-Net members. The PAG was formed after the 2014 ESCR-Net Peoples’ Forum on Human Rights & Business where corporate capture was highlighted by members as a priority issue to address as a root cause of corporate-related human rights violations. An initial Scoping Report into a series of case studies of corporate capture was prepared for the Peoples’ Forum.”

The CAWG’s main innovation has been to conduct research and analysis, package the problem in ways that make it understandable and actionable, and conduct promotion and awareness raising of the phenomenon through its member organizations, transversally through its programming, and notably on the international stage, primarily at the U.N. Global Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva and the Binding Treaty negotiations worldwide. Together,these steps combine to form a political education strategy that is fundamental in order to expand comprehension of the problem — before we can act collectively to address it.

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