Fernanda Frizzo Bragato & Alex Sandro da Silveira Filho ~ The Colonial Limits of Transnational Corporations’ Accountability for Human Rights Violations

(2021) 2 TWAIL Review 34-58
ISSN 2563-6693
Published under a Creative Commons licence

The economic and political power of transnational corporations (TNCs) in the globalized world has hugely increased in recent years, even though their engagement as central players in the capitalist world economy dates to the dawn of European colonial enterprise. Corporate policies then and now have been twofold.  On the one hand, they justify their operations in peripheral countries as triggers of development and progress. On the other hand, they usually commit or are involved in severe human rights violations and environmental harms that often go unpunished with local elites’ connivance. This paper introduces the concept of “coloniality” to understand how peripheral local elite engagement promotes and reinforces TNCs’ abusive human rights practices. The article will analyze the Ecuadorian National Court of Justice’s deployments that condemned Chevron to compensate local Ecuadorian communities for causing over 30 years of environmental damage. The conclusion is that this case shows the lack of accountability of TNCs in the Global South, underpinned by a fragile international regulation, lies on a continuing colonial logic characterized by a pervasive colonizer/colonized dichotomy that drives relations of domination from the Global North over the South and within the Global South.