Challenging Corporate Power:
The Córdoba Declaration
From October 14-17, 1999, thirty progressive activists and researchers assembled in Cordoba, Spain, 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 scapegoating of immigrants are some glaring examples of this trend. In addition the privatisation of essential services such as health care, housing, education and utilities prioritizes 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.
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 liasons 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 behavior 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:
Cordoba, 17 October 1999
List of signatories and participants of the CEO strategy meeting: