Challenging Corporate Power
The Cordoba Declaration
   Thirty progressive activists and researchers assembled in Cordoba, Spain, from October 14 to 17, 1999, for a European strategy session, solidifying an international network and movement challenging the increasing power of corporations
   While corporate power is not a new phenomenon, in the last decade, the political activities and influence of corporations have reached new levels -- threatening the pursuit of democracy and social and environmental standards. The growing gap between rich and poor, loss of livelihood, cuts in social services, mass unemployment and the scape-goating of immigrants are some glaring examples of this trend. In addition the privatisation of essential services such as health care, housing, education and utilities prioritises the realisation of profits over public interests.
   Important factors contributing to the rise of corporate power include the process of globalisation and the rise of neoliberalism. Following trade and investment liberalisation, mega-corporations operating on a global scale increasingly dominate economies. In the pursuit of international competitiveness, governments adopt regulations and free-up economic resources to serve the needs of corporations to the detriment of people and the environment around the world.
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   Corporations have organised themselves in a web of lobby groups on the national, regional and global level, such as the European Roundtable of Industrialists and the International Chamber of Commerce. They have benefited from the ongoing transfer of political power to anti-democratic international structures such as the European Union and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
   Far reaching corporate-state alliances have emerged in the last few years, such as the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD).
   They show a chilling reality of how far policies are being shaped around corporate priorities. Also, the increasingly close liaisons between the United Nations and business is an unacceptable trend. Another central element of corporate political power is the rise of a multi-billion euro public relations (PR) industry and media corporations which work with business in manipulating public perception on a wide range of issues where commercial interests are at stake.
   Campaigns on climate change and international trade and investment treaties -- such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and the World Trade Organisation -- as well as the growing revolt against genetically modified foods and movements against privatisation and deregulation in the South provide inspiring examples of how diverse social movements are challenging corporate power.
   The time has come to intensify our efforts to structurally challenge the political activities and power exercised by corporations and their lobby groups. This means rejecting the current agenda-setting role of business and anti-democratic alliances between corporations and states.
   Limiting economic concentration and dependency on mega-corporations is a necessary part of any attempt to roll back corporate political power, and allows the social and environmental agenda to reclaim political space. Codes of Conduct and other voluntary initiatives have proven to be insufficient and to be primarily corporate strategies to protect and further their own interests. Enforceable standards for corporate social and environmental behaviour are imperative.
   European Union leaders are meeting in Tampere, Finland to create "a common political and judicial space against crime and for European citizens' freedom". In fact, they are constructing a 'fortress Europe' that contributes to the rise of xenophobic, racist and chauvinist sentiments and an EU-wide security system that is also targeting legitimate expressions of popular opposition. At the same time, the European Union is developing the military capacity to serve European corporate interests worldwide.
   As the next steps in our efforts to roll back corporate power, we have agreed to work together to:
* Work to share information and strategies to challenge corporate power (direct action, critical shareholder campaigns, corporate watchdog activities etc.)
* Expose and challenge the major corporations involved in the public relations industry
* Expose the impact of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue on government regulations and institutions and the political influence gained by large companies through this anti-democratic corporate-state alliance
* Prevent WTO negotiations on new issues and demand a full independent review of the impact of the Uruguay Round agreements on people and environment
* Reject the "Global Compact" between the United Nations and international business as it is based on the flawed concept of self regulation by 'corporate global citizens'.
   Cordoba, 17 October 1999

   Signatories:
Belen Balanya, Corporate Europe Observatory / Ecologistas en Accion, Spain, see http://www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/
Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute, Canada
Ann Doherty, Corporate Europe Observatory, Netherlands
Timo Doherty, Netherlands
Ramon Fernandez Duran, Ecologistas en Accion / Movimiento contra la Europa de Maastricht y la Globalizacion, Spain
Mark Gavalda, Amazonia sin Petroleo, Spain
Olivier Hoedeman, Corporate Europe Observatory, Netherlands
Helen Holder, A SEED Europe
Jean-Philippe Joseph, Coordination pour le Control Citoyen de l'OMC, France
Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth, United Kingdom
Axel Koehler-Schnura, Co-ordination against Bayer Dangers / Association of Critical Shareholders, Germany
Tom Kucharz, Ecologistas en Accion / Movimiento contra la Europa de Maastricht y la Globalizacion, Spain
Tarjei Leer-Salvesen, Norwatch, Norway
Eveline Lubbers, Buro Janssen en Jansen, Netherlands
Volkmar Luebke, Verbraucher Initiative, Germany
Adam Ma'anit, Corporate Europe Observatory / A SEED Europe
Teemo Matinpuro, Finnish Peace Committee, Finland
Greg Muttitt, Corporate Watch, United Kingdom
Mikael Nyberg, journalist/researcher, Sweden
Claudia Peter, journalist/researcher, Germany
Carola Reintjes, National Coordination of Fair Trade, Spain
Judith Richter, researcher, Germany
Klass Ronnback, Friends of the Earth, Sweden
Amit Srivatastra, TRAC / Corporate Watch, USA
Antonio Tujan, IBON Foundation, Philippines
Erik Wesselius, Corporate Europe Observatory, Netherlands
Juraj Zamkowski, Centre for Environmental Public Advocacy, Slovakia
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