New Report: The EU and the Corporate Impunity Nexus

Shock Monitor’s research contributes to the new report: THE EU AND THE CORPORATE IMPUNITY NEXUS. Building the UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights

Today, more than 100 organisations and social movements are in Geneva to campaign for a to hold corporate power accountable for human rights violations. New research reveals how the EU has been obstructing this process 

For decades, affected communities around the globe have been resisting the modus operandi of transnational corporations (TNCs) in their territories and workplaces and documenting systemic human rights violations and the track record of corporate impunity with their lives and their deaths. Corporate impunity is embedded in and protected by an ‘architecture of impunity’ that legitimises and legalises the operations of TNCs.

This architecture has been established through free trade and investment agreements, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other financial instruments and the aggressive push for public-private partnerships (PPPs).

At the core of this architecture is the infamous investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, a private arbitration system that allows TNCs to sue states whenever they consider that their future profits are threatened by new measures or policies aiming at improving social and environmental protection.Thus, it neutralises the function of the state, whose primary responsibility is to defend public  interest and protect the well-being of its citizens and the planet from corporate interests.

As the UN Open Ended Inter Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) convenes to negotiate a long awaited international treaty to address corporate impunity, the European Union has emerged as a key opponent to the introduction of binding regulations for transnational corporations, and a stubborn defender of voluntary norms that have proven to be inefficient and insufficient.

As this new report shows, this position is not only a reflection of the pervasive corporate capture of many EU institutions; it also highlights the hypocrisy of European decision-makers and corporate leaders, which are always quick to promote themselves as models of responsibility, while remaining blind to the actual impacts of European corporations all over the planet and to the consequences of EU policies for peoples and the environment.

This new report is based on contributions from a large range of organisations and experts from across Europe and the Global South, and was facilitated by the ENCO (European Network of Corporate Observatories) network, a newly-established collaboration of European media and civil society organisations to investigate corporate power. From the lobbying and corporate capture prevalent at EU and UN level to the actual environmental and human rights impacts of European transnational corporations, from the legal mechanisms of corporate impunity to the critique of free trade agreements and investor protection mechanisms, it pulls together different strands of research to provide the full picture of what is at stake in the ongoing UN negotiations around an international treaty on transnational corporations and human rights, as the 4th Session OEIGWG meets in Geneva.

This report demonstrates that in effect, EU representatives are saying exactly the same things, with the same arguments and sometimes the very same words, in this UN working group as international corporate lobby groups such as the International Chamber of Commerce or the International Organisation of Employers: that there is no need for a Treaty since existing voluntary mechanisms are sufficient, that business should be part of the negotiations, and (in spite of the overwhelming evidence that their complex legal structures and their economic and political power often allow them to escape accountability and impose their will on national governments) that transnational corporations pose no specific problem in international law.

SHOCK MONITOR Contribution: exploring G4S activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

G4S is a British-based security and outsourcing company that has expanded through lucrative government contracts all over the world, often creating controversy. As corpo­rations such as G4S are hired to perform the ‘lowest’ and most disreputable tasks of government – such as security, detention of migrants, prison management, border control and so on – it can be hard to disentangle the responsibility of governments and those of private corporations for the violations resulting from these services.

There is however evidence of lobbying and close proximity between G4S and governments, and it can be said that by offering a ‘low-cost’ way for governments to perform these tasks and to shift responsibility for them to private contractors, corporations such as G4S create an environment that is more conducive to human rights violations. For example, the involvement of G4S in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, through its Israeli branch, resulted in alleged human rights violations in at least three different contexts.


SEE MORE DETAILED INFO about GS4 in our database, here Regarding Human Rights Violations perpetrated in the following Operational contexts:

  • Occupation (checkpoints, settlements, wall, separation barriers)
  • Borders and inmigration detention centers
  • Prisons
  • Extractive projects (faciity protection, transportation)
  • Rural areas
  • Homeland Security
  • Macro events
  • City
  • Youth Detention Centers
  • Air


  • International crimes (crimes of war, crimes against humanity, genocide, agression)
  • Rights to physical and psychological integrity (inc. right to life, human treatment, etc)
  • Right to health
  • Liberty and security of person (inc.freedom of movement, personal security, etc)
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to child protection
  • Right to equality/non-discrimination
  • Civil and political rights