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To: Government Ministers, DGs, MPs and all other public servants and elected officials.

Stop closed door meetings between government and big business

The people, not profit, should govern. But some big businesses have used their power to influence decisions. From wining and dining [1] to bullying, we have seen how some big businesses have tried to stop or delay taxes [2] [3], better wages for workers [4] and cheaper medication [5].

We, the undersigned, call on you to agree to the following demands:

- Publicly commit to transparency by disclosing all meetings, events, correspondence, submissions and other engagements with big businesses and their associates. All documents and information must be easily accessible to the public.

- Publicly commit to protecting decision-making processes from big businesses and their associates. It is a conflict of interest for those motivated by profit to participate in or influence decision-making in the public interest.

- Work to better enforce and implement the codes of conduct for public servants and political officials to ensure decisions serve the public and the constitution, not private interests.

- The public must be able to easily access declarations of interests for all senior public servants to help monitor conflicts of interest.

Your decisions cannot be a compromise between private and public interests. Your responsibility is to serve the public and the constitution, which means keeping private interests in check and ensuring big businesses don't profit at the expense of the people.

Finally, we call on big business and their associates to stop using their enormous resources to delay, dilute and delegitimise decisions that are in the public interest. Prove that you are not bullies and stop holding the country hostage with threats of job losses and divesting. With your huge profits, the least you could do is respect our democracy, governance and people's dignity.

Why is this important?

Imagine your teacher smoking in the classroom. For some of us, this was the reality until new rules were put in place by government in 1993 [6]. But why had government not acted sooner? In their paper published in 2003, Mia Malan and Rosemary Leaver outline the relationship between the biggest tobacco business and government [7] [8]. Government eventually put public health before profits, thanks to the work of health advocates.

But big businesses are still using their power to protect their profits at our expense. Researchers have pointed out that big businesses have worked to delay and delegitimize important health policies by using their associations and different strategies [9]. Researchers and civil society groups are not allowed to attend a standing meeting between the National Department of Health and big food businesses [9]. State capture has shown us we have a lot of work to do. But we are making some progress in improving transparency and accountability. Politicians have to declare financial interests [10], and political parties now must disclose who funds them [11].

We need to keep building on this momentum. We can't afford to have a repeat of 2014 where big businesses that make food like polony did not agree with government's proposed hygiene rules and instead wanted to self-regulate [12] [13]. Government should have stood up to those big businesses in 2014 and put the new rules in place anyway.

Government has to stand up to big business bullies. Their job is to serve the people, not private interests.

References can be found here:
South Africa

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2022-10-05 14:47:50 +0200

100 signatures reached

2022-10-05 10:30:26 +0200

50 signatures reached

2022-10-04 20:01:15 +0200

25 signatures reached

2022-10-04 18:00:29 +0200

10 signatures reached