Winner Takes All: How Multinational Corporations Violate Economic Human Rights in Developing Countries

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When the topic of human rights comes up in conversation, many people automatically think of torture or the inhuman treatment of others.

Admittedly, torture is one of the most talked-about human rights violations. Nevertheless, it is only one of 30 articles in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights set forth by the United Nations.

Article 22 states that “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

In many African countries, citizens do not have the economic rights indispensable for their dignity due, in large part, to the invasion of multinational corporations, who take a lion’s share of the market and essentially wipe out local competition.

Worldwide advancements in technology as well as increasingly crowded markets and the depletion of natural resources in developed countries have created new opportunities for investment in developing countries.

A growing Middle Class in many developing countries also provides a ready market for new goods and services, ensuring profitability for investors.

Multinational corporations come from capital-rich countries and are, therefore, able to mobilize huge financial resources to make investments in developing countries.

However, the healthy returns on their investments are often enjoyed at the expense of the citizens of developing nations.

One of the ways in which multinational corporations negatively impact developing countries is by lobbying the World Trade Organization and other international bodies to for international trade policies that work in their favor and to the disadvantage of developing countries.

An example of this are the infamous Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) imposed on developing nations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

These programs have resulted in increasing poverty in developing nations as multinational corporations reap the benefits of said policies.

One of the most egregious requirements of the SAPs has been for developing nations to open up their markets to free trade and to limit the role of the state.

Privatization and reduced protection of domestic industries have been encouraged, paving the way for multinational corporations.

The Global Policy Forum explains how governments of developing nations have been pushed into unfavorable trade agreements, including developing “Export Processing Zones [EPZs]… usually exempt from national taxes, tariff duties and a wide range of regulations, including those on wages, working conditions, health protection, environmental safety and trade union rights.”

With the setting up of these EPZs, governments essentially “turn over sovereignty to corporate investors and seriously undermine national tax and regulatory systems.”

Multinational corporations take advantage of these policies, putting profit over people.

They enjoy numerous protections in their own countries, while disregarding the dignity and needs of the citizens of developing nations and violating numerous human rights.

While I appreciate the individuals and organizations from developed countries that are fighting for the realization of human rights in developing countries, it is time that more of the African voices weighing in on what their continent needs are heeded.

Many of the current economic problems on the African continent are a result of Africans not having enough say in their own economies and in the global and local policies that affect them.

A well-known African voice is Dambisa Moyo, an international economist who writes on the macroeconomy and global affairs.

She has provided well-researched alternatives to the current global economic policies that hamper the progress of African countries.

Many other brilliant African minds with vision for the continent and smaller-scale projects in their countries often find their voices buried in the fray.

I am hopeful that these collective efforts will result in the restoration of the economic rights indispensable for the dignity of the citizens of developing nations sooner, rather than later.

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