A driving force of social change, which often harnesses organizing strategies to grow and wield collective power, are social movements. There are multiple examples, from the Indian farmers’ protests to the Rio Sonora Watershed Committees in Mexico, from Friday for Future to the Sunrise Movement and climate protests worldwide, and from Black Lives Matter to indigenous land rights’ movements globally.

A few important opportunities that could be replicated or scaled to tackle and stop corporate capture include:

  • ESCR-Net’s CAWG: While the organization is a non-profit organization, theInternational Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(ESCR-Net) genuinely comprises individuals, organizations, and social movements, all of which play an integral role, including in theCorporate Accountability Working Group (CAWG) and theCorporate Capture Project.Regarding social movements, ESCR-Net states that “The Working Group of Social Movements and Grassroots Groups builds solidarity, facilitates mutual learning, deepens a shared analysis and builds global alliances around common challenges, goals and issues of collective interest, while promoting the active participation and leadership of grassroots leaders in all areas of the Network’s collective work.” The Network is certainly a concrete intervention worth supporting.

  • Integrating anti-corporate capture analysis with social movements:There is an opportunity to make common cause between social movements, including those advocating for climate justice, and link their struggles to the fight against corporate capture.Conectasprovides examples from Brazil, which could be replicated elsewhere. “[An] interesting opportunity is to collaborate with the efforts of Brazilian civil society and social movements to ensure that climate finance and taxation projects are inclusive and consider the perspectives of these movements. Increasingly, in Brazil, the demands for social justice are associated with climate justice, including the formulation of high-impact projects in which social movements influence financial policies, calling for greater transparency and accountability for economic agents. (…) It is relevant to raise that organizations that are directly working on the ground, such as indigenous peoples and traditional communities (i.e. quilombolas) associations, must be included in these efforts. [Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation, APIB] and [Coordenação Nacional de Articulação de Quilombos, CONAQ], for instance, are very relevant in Brazil and are resisting strongly against negative corporate impact on social and environmental rights in Brazil.”

Also in Brazil, the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Movement of those Affected by Dams, or MAB) has been actively supporting legislation and other efforts to reign in corporate power. According to Tchenna Maso, “In Brazil, we have been deeply affected by corporations. Our communities were strongly impacted by the privatisation of the electric sector, the increased role of private water firms such as Suez, and the building of dams by corporations. That is why [MAB] was created. Our focus on energy led to work on mining and struggle against giant mining firms such as Brazilian firm Vale and British-Australian BHP. They not only consume huge amounts of energy, they have also been responsible for terrible environmental disasters, such as the collapse of two dams storing toxic waste water in Mariana (2015) and Brumadinho (2019) which killed 270 people and displaced more than a million people. Similarly in my work with La Via Campesino, we are up against corporations such as Bayer and Monsanto. Corporations in Brazil shape everything — labour rights, public politics, poverty, access to land, even violence against women.”

A similar effort is underway in the Asia Pacific region. According toSarojeni Rengam from  Pesticide Action Network – Asia-Pacific(PANAP), “[It] has worked with groups focusing on energy transition as part of climate change. A lot of organizations do not work with the rural sector, so they have worked with peoples’ movements on the ground (peasants, farmers, plantation workers, indigenous population). They have been trying to build and mobilize movements to work in climate change, to bring them together to get solutions. The first and most important strategy is to organize the communities on the ground to build strong networks and movements of farmers and peasants. That is one of the most important aspects of the work.

  • Global People’s Summit on Food Systems (GPS):According to PANAP, “The [GPS] slammed the recently concluded U.N. Food Systems Summit for paving the way for greater control of big corporations over global food systems and misleading people through corporate-led false solutions to hunger and climate change. (…) The GPS culminated [in September 2021] with online and on-ground protests led by rural peoples in various countries across the Global South.”

  • Anti-capture movement building in South Africa:“The building of public knowledge and the deepening of widespread outrage surrounding state capture grew the support bases of civil society organisations, laying the groundwork for later efforts at ‘movement-building’. In turn, these efforts helped to provide a ‘home’ for dissenting voices within the [African National Congress] and created room for business leaders in anti-corruption efforts. … Civil society mobilisation gradually gained momentum as the issue of state capture increasingly impacted the core work of several NGOs. The Social Justice Coalition – formed in 2009 to focus on localised socio-economic rights – became involved in anti-corruption campaigns because state capture undermined service delivery. (…) [Many] of the ‘professional’ NGOs, which had been ambivalent about becoming involved in the counter-state capture endeavours, were increasingly aware of their weaknesses in the face of emerging popular and large-scale movements such as #FeesMustFall. As a result, many NGOs joined the anti-corruption efforts to be part of a broader movement” (Luke Spiropoulos).

  • The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power, and Stop Impunity: “The [Global Campaign] is a network of over 250 social movements, [CSOs], trade unions and communities affected by the activities of Transnational Corporations (TNCs). These groups resist land grabs, extractive mining, exploitative wages and environmental destruction caused by TNCs globally but particularly in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. (…) The Global Campaign is a peoples’ global structural response to unaccountable corporate power which provides facilitation for dialogue, strategizing, exchanging information and experiences, acting as a space for visibility of resistance and deepening of solidarity and support for struggles against TNCs.”

The Campaign proposes anInternational Peoples Treaty,which provides a political framework to support the local, national, and international movements and communities in their resistances and practices of alternatives to corporate power and the TNCs’ model of the economy. It also participates in the campaign for the Binding Treaty. Its strategies include:

  • Permanent People’s Tribunal.“The PPT was created to give visibility and qualify as rights all those situations in which the massive violation of fundamental rights are not met with recognition or institutional responses, whether they be at the national and international level. In three bi-regional sessions, the PPT heard denunciations on the human rights violations and environmental devastation by European TNCs in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

  • Counter-hegemonic networks:“The Bi-regional Europe-Latin America and CaribbeanEnlazando Alternativas Networkwas created in 2004 out of the need to intensify civil society resistance in Latin America and Europe to the ‘Europe Project’, the Lisboa agenda, transnational corporations based in the European Union and international ‘free’ trade and investment policies. Networks, social and trade union organizations and movements of the Bi-regional network coordinate around strategies to paralyze negotiations of [free trade agreements] between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean, strengthen struggles against European TNCs and deepen the process of building alternative proposals for just, sustainable and complementary integration, based on solidarity and the interest of the peoples.”

  • Legal strategies:“Official law is part of the hegemonic structure of domination and can only become a contra-hegemonic vehicle when it is subordinated to political action. However, legal interventions generate space for disputes and confrontation which can lead to popular victories in the long struggle against dominant classes and the capitalist system. The victims of these abuses and social movements must be the true protagonists in these conflicts.”

  • Boycotts:“TNCs see boycotts as a threat that should be avoided at all cost. Companies react to boycotts in different ways, according to how they calculate the damage it could bring to their corporate image: with aggressive publicity campaigns, attempts to co-opt those behind the campaign and even threats to sue. Boycotts are not always effective. It is important to take into consideration that there are sectors, like the textile industry, in which boycotts have resulted in a given brand name laying off its workers, which is counter-productive to them, as instead of improving their working conditions, they make them worse. We need to seek alternatives that avoid producing this kind of negative consequences”.

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