Leak: EU to back out of UN treaty on business and human rights

13 March 2019

The EU has decided to drop out of UN negotiations on a binding treaty to make multinational corporations accountable for human rights abuses committed overseas, according to leaked documents seen by Friends of the Earth Europe.

The documents indicate that the EU has decided not to participate in the next round of negotiations in October this year and any informal meetings happening in the coming months. Annual sessions to negotiate a treaty have taken place since 2015, but the European Union has been obstructing the process since the beginning to protect business interests.

Ike Teuling, corporate accountability campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "It's an outrage that the EU is backing out of a treaty that could prevent human rights violations by big corporations and give much-needed access to justice for victims of human rights abuses around the world. Citizens in the global south have spent years trying to get the EU on board, and now the EU is letting them down, ignoring the over half a million European citizens that signed a petition in support of the binding treaty."

At the same time, the EU is pushing ahead with negotiations for an international corporate court system, which would give multinational companies more rights to sue governments for policies made in the public interest, but which could affect corporate profits. The next session of negotiations on the reform of this system is scheduled for April in the UN. 

Ike Teuling continued: "It's clear where the EU's current priorities lie – instead of giving more rights to people affected by corporate malpractice, it wants to make it more difficult for governments to legislate in the public interest and confer more rights to big business. Ahead of the European elections in May, is this really the signal that the EU wants to be sending?"