Without information, democracy cannot exist. We are being confronted with the emergence of new forms of power – economic powers – that largely escape traditional democratic mechanisms and counter-powers (including the media): transnational corporations. They are having an increasing influence on the world, on our lives and our societies, but we – ordinary citizens, civil society and even public authorities – often lack the relevant information that is required to prompt a genuine democratic discussion on their power, formulate adequate strategies and regulations, and imagine alternative solutions.
This issue of the Passerelle series explores the many issues around the production and dissemination of “democratic information” on corporations, for the benefit of citizens and society at large. The articles in this collection outline the many obstacles that hinder the production of such information (trade secrets, the repression of whistleblowers, media concentration, to name just a few) and illustrate the limitations of transparency mechanisms and reporting obligations that transnational corporations are currently subjected to – i.e., tax systems, lobbying, public subsidies and product labelling. This Passerelle also explores the use of critical information within the companies themselves, particularly among unions. Lastly, it provides an overview of the history and work of a number of organisations, networks and initiatives in Europe and throughout the world seeking to build “information counter-powers” to transnational corporations.
When it comes to confronting corporate power, “fighting by informing” is perhaps just as important as ensuring corporations submit to binding regulations and legal sanction. Not only because all these battles are ultimately inseparable, but also because information allows us to go even further, beyond a purely negative position, by highlighting alternatives to corporations. It is possible to take a different route, and we can do it without them.
The organisation Ritimo is in charge of Coredem and of publishing the Passerelle Collection. Ritimo is a network for information and documentation on international solidarity and sustainable development. In 90 locations throughout France, Ritimo opens public information centres on global issues, organises civil society campaigns and develops awareness-raising and training sessions. Ritimo is actively involved in the production and dissemination of plural and critical information, by means of its website.
The Multinationals Observatory aims to provide independent online news resources and in-depth investigations on the social, ecological and political impact of French transnational corporations, in a way that is useful for the action of civil society, MPs, businesspeople and communities.
Published in French and English, this issue can be downloaded here below.
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