Nathalie Renfigo-Alvarez is a Senior International Policy Organizer for Corporate Accountability International, a non-profit which seeks to expose and challenge transnational corporations that violate human rights. Nathalie organizes to advance corporate accountability policies within the United Nations intergovernmental agencies such as the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the U.N. Human Rights Council. She also advances the mission of Corporate Accountability International by building coalitions with organizations, community leaders, and government delegates around the world with a focus on the Global South. Ebony Hargro, a Pathways of Change intern at CAI’s office in Boston, Massachusetts, conducted this interview.
Ebony Hargro: Where did you grow up? What were your early years like?
Nathalie Renfigo-Alvarez: I grew up in Colombia. The name of the city is Cali. Cali is a very hot city, approximately 23-30 Celsius degrees every day during the whole year. Cali is in a valley surrounded by a mountain range, very close to the Pacific Ocean. I grew up surrounded by a big family — many cousins, five aunts, and a big presence from my maternal grandmother. My family spent many weekends together, cooking and enjoying food together.
EH: What is your educational background?
NR: I am a lawyer. I also have graduate certificates in Women in Politics and Public Policy, international humanitarian law and peace studies, and a dual masters in Sustainable International Development and Coexistence and Conflict.
EH: What did your path to corporate accountability look like, and your path within it, look like?
NR: I have always been concerned with the ways that systems oppress people and prevent us from developing to our full potential by keeping us from feeling fulfilled and happy with ourselves, with our families, our environment, and our world. My parents are human rights lawyers and they have been my major influence. During college, my mind and eyes opened more to the analysis of the intersections of class, race, and gender. That was a key moment that shaped my views, values, and my decisions about what I wanted to do. In addition to the academic exposure, being from a country that has suffered the consequences of colonialism, imperialism, and aggressive capitalism, also had an influence in my analysis of corporate power and greed.
My first jobs after law school were working with internally displaced women that have suffered violence because of the internal war and also domestic violence, followed by working with the UN trying to pass legislation at the national level for gender equality.
After moving to the US my jobs have been in civil liberties and social justice, ranging from working for a domestic violence hotline, at the Massachusetts Senate, and for the ACLU of Massachusetts. All these experiences brought me to Corporate Accountability International.
EH: What does your work at Corporate Accountability International entail?
NR: I am a Senior International Policy organizer, so what that means is that I organize and work with other international organizations, like the Global Campaign for example, around human rights and climate policy. I represent the organization in different coalitions of civil society and organize collective action with them.
EH: What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your current work?
NR: The most rewarding parts of my work is when I get to collaborate and mobilize with many people from different places of the world and we work together and become friends and family in the fight for social justice.
The most challenging part of my work is to keep on track of all the many different pieces that move in a campaign.
EH: In what ways has your work at Corporate Accountability International changed your views about corporate accountability/business and human rights?
NR: Corporate Accountability has strengthened my analysis about the effects of unaccountable corporate power and its influence in all aspects of our lives from our food, to our environment, to our democracy. It has also strengthened my drive to fight against it and to understand that the fight needs to be global and with all people. We are more, and we have the power to change the structures only if we work together.
EH: What skills have helped you the most to succeed in corporate accountability?
NR: It is very important to understand that to build people’s power we need to connect with people. We need to understand where everyone comes from and how everyone is experiencing the abuses of corporations and how everyone is resisting. For that reason connecting with people has been the most valuable value for my work and for my life.
EH: Who or what organizations do you look to as leaders in the corporate accountability field?
NR: Black Lives Matter, because we can’t ignore the intersectionalities of structural violence. Our society as it is formed today and for the last 500 years, is preventing black and brown people, women, trans folks, and immigrants from living. I don’t think there is an organization that is completely looking at the links between all these intersections and the relation with corporate power, abuses, and impunity. But there are movements that are doing this, and Black Lives Matter is showing the world that in order to achieve justice and freedom from oppression for all we need to fight for and achieve it for Black Lives.