26 februari 2020

Verslag workshop corporate capture

Naar aanleiding van de publicatie van de nieuwste editie van onze Beet the system organiseerden we een workshop rond Corporate capture. De invloed van de private sector op de politieke besluitvorming neemt toe. Welke mechanismen spelen er en hoe moeten we ons hier als middenveld tegenover positioneren? Deze vragen kwamen aan bod in de presentaties en discussies.


What is Corporate capture?

There are many different definitions for corporate capture.

The concept comprises the many different ways in which corporations increase their influence on democratic spaces and decision making processes with the aim to shift policy decisions towards their private interests.

It includes lobbying, systems of favors and revolving doors, influencing scientific research, organizing conferences, framing issues in very technical ways to remove them from the public debate. Corporate capture also happens through more visible approaches such as public-private partnerships and multistakeholder initiatives.

Why should we care about corporate capture?

Corporate capture entails great risks for human rights and the planet. Corporate capture reduces the space for governments to act and for people to hold their governments to account. It generates a shift towards policy decisions and implementation that serves private interests at the detriment of society’s wellbeing.

Sinds the ‘90s the corporate sector has integrated various policy spaces through lobbying and public private partnerships. The idea of the private sector as partner in development, against climate change and for the realization of human rights has entered our societies without much resistance.

We believe it is essential for civil society to critically assess this trend and the risks it generates.

Aim of the workshop

When FIAN started to work on the topic we found that corporate capture generates quite some attention among civil society at the international level and in other countries. However in Belgium the issue of corporate capture and the possible negative impacts of collaboration with the private sector are not often discussed.

We decided to bring the international debate to the national level through:

  • Documentation of national and international examples in our yearly magazine: Beet the system
  • The Organisation of a workshop to collectively reflect on corporate capture.

Group discussions

Reflexions on reasons for or against collaboration with the private sector.

Reasons in favour:

  • Financial pressure: often required for funding : pressure from the government
  • Pragmatical reasons: direct contacts, change/critical voice from within, convince actors to do better
  • Afraid to be left behind and not take part in new trends

Reasons against:

  • When engaging you agree to reach a compromise: not possible to remain critical;
  • Legitimation of a partnership you do not agree with;
  • Do we want to convince actors that are part of the problem or make space for alternatives?
  • Can lead to public money going to the wrong actors: ex. Certification;

Other reflexions:

  • Need to make distinction between different roles of actors (right holders, stakeholders, government who is accountable);
  • Often difference approach and vision between national and international organizations;
  • Difficult to fight against the positive message from companies that are specialized in selling themselves;
  • Ideas and needs to fight corporate capture;
  • Need to clarify concepts: multistakeholder, corporate capture;
  • Remind people of the context, history of these concepts;
  • Strengthen awareness within organizations;
  • Document cases of corporate capture;
  • More reactivity when initiatives in collaboration with private sector are presented in the media;
  • Go beyond the ideological debate towards a human rights approach;
  • Work on binding regulation for companies;