ISDS – short for ‘Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement’ is a obscure parallel justice system only accessible to the super-rich.
Multinational companies have used this system to threaten governments that dare to stand up to them with claims of up to billions of euros.
Government policies that have been challenged using ISDS include:
- Regulating pollution levels on a coal power station
- Introducing health warnings on cigarettes
- Declaring a moratorium on fracking
- Halting a mine that would have destroyed whole communities
- Raising the minimum wage
- Freezing water tariffs to help the poor
- Stopping health insurers from making huge profit
And they don’t always have to win their case to get their way. For many countries, the mere threat of a huge claim can be enough to persuade them to back down and let the corporate fatcats win.
When millions of people across Europe rejected the EU-US trade agreement TTIP, many people learned about ISDS (which was part of the deal) and were very angry.
Now there are plans to scale-up ISDS by creating a permanent global court where corporations will sue states. The EU and member state governments want to do this by inserting it into new trade agreements. Their support for such an unfair toxic system must be challenged.
In order to stop ISDS we need to oppose these new deals and get rid of existing ones. Corporations and the super-rich do not need a separate system to protect their rights.
Human beings need more rights, corporations do not.
End corporate impunity
They destroy the planet. They ruin lives. They can even get away with murder.
But instead of punishment, they get more power and impunity. Over the past decades, the extent of corporate power has become overwhelming.
If you were to steal so much as a loaf of bread, you could be held accountable in a court of law. But corporations hide behind complicated and opaque ownership structures to avoid legal responsibility. This means that they regularly get away with perpetrating serious human rights and environmental abuses including:
- Land grabs
- Ecocide and mass pollution
- Climate change
- Forced labour
This is why campaigners and social movements from across the world have united to push for a global system that punishes multinationals for human rights abuses.
A new system for holding corporations to account could be a real game changer in fighting the global power of corporations. It could mean:
- Local communities from the global south winning the right to take corporations to court in places like France, Germany and the UK.
- A UN Binding Treaty on multinational corporations and human rights. This will give people an international guarantee that corporations will be held to account.
- More national and EU-level laws like the French Duty of Vigilance legislation. This forces corporations to take responsibility for ensuring that human rights are not being violated anywhere in their global supply chains.
But there is a big problem. Rich countries – like the US, and most European governments – are fighting tooth and nail to stop it. The very same governments who think that global corporations need special rights and a separate ISDS court system, don’t want to give ordinary people the right to hold multinationals to account.
This is why we need to fight hard to make sure our politicians wake up. They need to recognise: Rights are for people. What corporations need are rules.