Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Monoplists, Public Policy and Indigenous Rights

Published: December 14, 2009, Author: MHirch

The World Trade Organization is essentially the world’s “chamber of commerce” sanctioned by states’ governments to regulate public policy. It is now quite commonly accepted in the assemblies of government that when public policies (health, education, economic, human rights, indigenous rights, etc) prevent profit or reduce profits for a corporation (read trans-state corporation) the policy is twisted to favor profit and reject benefits to the public.

Big corporations often supported by BINGOs (big international non-governmental organizations) seek to maintain monopolies–rejecting and defeating free enterprise competition. Protecting monopolies has become the norm instead of the exception. Free enterprise competition is given lip service but little else.

States’ governments fail to regulate corporations. (Since the US President Jimmy Carter Administration states’ governments led by the US have stripped themselves of all regulatory powers with the help of corporations.) Since the 2008 collapse of international financial institutions and the consequent breakdown of domestic economies few political leaders have strained to push for reregulation.  For those trying their efforts have largely been obstructed by overwhelming corporate, political party brethren, ngos and public information media [owned by major corporations] opposition and propaganda.

How does this all affect policy and in particular indigenous peoples? The WTO and individual corporate offices with mounds of money effectively veto states’ government policies offered for the public good.  The World Trade Organization has effective veto power over states’ government laws that have the effect of reducing, altering or stopping commerce. Health, climate change, clean energy, clean water and air, improved labor conditions and safety, mortgage help, and yes, implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are all topics of public policy that have been thwarted by corporations seeking to maintain their short-term profit margins and monopolies.

What is stopping health insurance reform in the United States: abortion policy, public option, reductions in health costs? No, these are really red herrings. The actual concerns are objections by monopolistic insurance and pharmaceutical corporations seeking to maintain their hold on profits and the emergence of competition.  What is stopping climate change legislation? Corporations seeking to maintain their profits and monopolies.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) has been opposed by Canada and the United States for more than twenty-five years and they have not, to this day, joined 144 other states’ governments endorsing it. Why? The US government fears implementation of the Declaration as granting and effective “veto” to indigenous peoples over economic, natural resource and human rights policies.  The corporations have the greater fear of UNDRIP since its implementation in states’ government laws and by indigenous peoples will cut short profit taking (corporations basically get access to indigenous peoples’ resources for free) and undermine their monopolies if indigenous peoples prevent predatory exploitation of lands, plants, animals and people.

Indigenous peoples are, oddly, in the strongest position to undo the corporate veto; and they will be forced to exercise a veto. They are not generally beholding to the corporations, and they have the lands, resources and ability to deny access to corporations. Yes, there are messy subregional wars going on all around the world where states’ governments throw their armies at indigenous peoples to defend the corporations, but low level conflicts obstructing corporations have slowed and stopped corporate influence.  States’ governments would do well to join with indigenous peoples in the defense of land and people. But, of course that may be less possible since the states’ governments are now largely wholly owned subsidiaries of major oil, pharmaceutical, insurance, and communications corporations–regulating the states through the WTO.


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