JOHANNESBURG -- Environmentalists called on the UN Earth Summit to clip the
wings of powerful multinational corporations (MNCs) and regulate them to ensure
greater accountability for environmental damage.
Some 50 non-governmental organisations, wrapping up a week-long conference on corporate accountability, demanded a legally binding international mechanism to curb abuses by MNCs, especially in developing countries where poor governance and financial constraints made it tough to regulate.
also announced the creation of a worldwide movement to hold corporations accountable
for environmental and social abuses.
They also announced the creation of a worldwide movement to hold corporations accountable for environmental and social abuses.
"Our experience since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 is that corporate claims
of voluntary responsibility have proven hollow. Until they are held legally liable,
they won't change their behavior," said Bobby Peek from South African non-governmental
The Earth Summit starting Monday until September 4 is a 10-year follow-up to the summit on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro.
Environmentalists say globalization has made it possible for MNCs to practise
double standards, misusing lax laws in poorer nations to cut costs and evade obligations
when environmental crimes such as industrial pollution, toxic waste dumping and
deforestation occur in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
For example, asbestos can be handled more cheaply in industrialising countries in Asia without the stringent rules protecting workers in the United States or Europe.
In this picture provided by Greenpeace, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is shown
on board the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza in Cape Town, South Africa harbor Friday
Aug. 23, 2002. Tutu blessed the vessel and the crew and then joined them in wishing
for a clean, peaceful and nuclear free world. The Greenpeace ship is in Cape Town
as part of the environmental group's Earth Summit campaign which takes place in
Johannesburg next week. (AP Photo/Greenpeace, Daniel Beltra, HO)
They urged governments to return to their role as environment protector and give communities the right to challenge and veto harmful development projects.
"Governments must not abdicate their responsibility by giving corporates a
free licence to do business as usual," Asian coordinator for Greenpeace
International, Von Hernandez, told AFP.
"We want a commitment from the Earth Summit to develop an international instrument to ensure corporates pay up and clean up damages they do to the environment and public health."
Greenpeace urged states to combat bribery and reject corporate influence in decision-making, and for the developing world to review a trend to privatise public sectors.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) called
on governments to draw up laws providing suitable sanctions for errant companies
such as suspending their listing status and withdrawing tax privileges or their
But such hopes appear futile amid opposition led by the United States and muted responses from developing countries which fear such proposals would scare away much-needed foreign investment.
"It's ironic that the US is seeking global support for its fight against terror after the September 11 attacks but on the other hand, refuses to support the war to save the planet," Hernandez said.
He warned developing nations against lowering their standards in favour of
investment as they would end up victims in the long-run if they accepted "cheap
and dirty" technology from the industrialised world.
Copyright 2002 AFP