The majority of the world’s richest entities are corporations, not governments

October 18, 2018
Alexandra Jacobo

More than two-thirds of economic entities on the planet are corporations, not governments, according to new research.

According to a list compiled by Global Justice Now (GJN), corporations account for 157 of the 200 largest entities. Walmart tops the list, having generates sales of more than half a trillion last year alone, an amount equal to the income of all but nine of the world’s 195 national governments. Big Oil company Royal Dutch Shell’s revenues alone dwarf those collected by most countries in the world, including Mexico, Belgium and Russia.

In an effort to pressure the the U.K. government to advance a United Nations treaty that would hold transnational corporations to account for human rights violations, the GJN conducted the report by measuring 2017 revenue. The found that 69 of the top 100 economic entities in the world are corporations.

“When it comes to the top 200 entities, the gap between corporations and governments gets even more pronounced: 157 are corporations,” says the GJ. “Walmart, Apple, and Shell all accrued more wealth than even fairly rich countries like Russia, Belgium, Sweden.”

The new data shows the corporations are obviously reaping the enormous rewards from tax cuts, tax avoidance, and business-friendly trade and investment policies, leading to them pulling in revenue “far in excess of most governments” which is leading to them having an unprecedented amount of power to influence politicians and policy.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said:

“THE VAST WEALTH AND POWER OF CORPORATIONS IS AT THE HEART OF SO MANY OF THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS – LIKE INEQUALITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE. THE DRIVE FOR SHORT-TERM PROFITS TODAY SEEMS TO TRUMP BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS FOR MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. YET THERE ARE VERY FEW WAYS THAT CITIZENS CAN HOLD THESE CORPORATIONS TO ACCOUNT FOR THEIR BEHAVIOUR. RATHER, THROUGH TRADE AND INVESTMENT DEALS, IT IS CORPORATIONS WHICH ARE ABLE TO DEMAND THAT GOVERNMENTS DO THEIR BIDDING.

“THE UK GOVERNMENT HAS FACILITATED THIS RISE IN CORPORATE POWER – THROUGH TAX STRUCTURES, TRADE DEALS AND EVEN AID PROGRAMMES THAT HELP BIG BUSINESS. DISGRACEFULLY IT ALSO ROUTINELY OPPOSES THE CALL OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES TO HOLD CORPORATIONS TO ACCOUNT FOR THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS IMPACTS AT THE UN. THAT’S WHY TODAY WE’RE JOINING CAMPAIGNS FROM ACROSS THE WORLD TO TELL THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT NOT TO BLOCK THIS INTERNATIONAL DEMAND FOR JUSTICE.”

Proponents for the binding treaty are calling for it to be legally enforceable at a national and global level. Although world superpowers such as the U.K, have been hostile towards the treaty, it is largely supported by many developing countries, such as Ecuador and South Africa.

Organizations that support the treaty, such as Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific, noted it could be a potential “game-changer.” Says Friends of the Earth: “From a coal mine in Bangladesh that threatens to destroy one of the world’s largest mangrove ecosystems to hundreds of people at risk of displacement from a mega-sugar plantation in Sri Lanka, corporations and big business are often implicated in human rights abuses across Asia.”

“Companies are able to evade responsibility by operating between different national jurisdictions and taking advantage of corruption in local legal systems, not to mention the fact that many corporations are richer and more powerful than the states that seek to regulate them. We must right this wrong.”

Negotiations on the U.N. Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations began Monday in The Hague.

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