Monday 23 October will mark the start of the negotiations at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on a binding treaty for businesses in relation to human rights.
This is a historic opportunity to ensure that affected communities, Human and Environmental Rights Defenders and others who are victim of corporate abuse have enhanced access to justice.
Elements for this treaty, which will form the basis for the negotiations have now been published.
45 European non-government organisations have responded with the following statement in support of the publication of these elements:
Statement by European NGOs on the publication of the elements for the open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises for Cohom, Member States, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
The undersigned organisations welcome the publication of the elements which were prepared by the Chair-Rapporteur of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises (TNCs and OBEs) with respect to human rights on October 2nd, 2017.
We believe that the elements presented by the Chair-Rapporteur set the stage for fruitful discussions about the content of the long-awaited international legally binding instrument. We support these elements as they are following on from a credible process during the last two years and aim to address the issues needing action and cooperation at international level, where gaps have been clearly recognized – under the helpful headlines of obligations, prevention, effective remedy, jurisdiction, international cooperation, enforcement mechanisms.
We welcome the scope of application based on the “transnational character” of the activities, regardless of the mode of creation, control, ownership, size or structure.
We welcome the fact that point 2.3 makes a clear reference to the “Actors subject to its application” including TNCs and OBEs. We welcome the clear references to the recent French legislation on “duty of vigilance” and describing the obligations of TNCs and OBEs with a “preventive” aspect (the “vigilance plan” mentioned in paragraph 4), as well as the stated objective (para 1.4) to establish and strengthen effective remedy mechanisms.
We will prepare a more in-depth statement regarding the different parts of the draft elements, which we will be happy to share as inputs for your preparations for the upcoming IGWG session taking place October 23-27th in Geneva.
Throughout the world, support for this treaty is growing, illustrated by the increasingly loud call from affected communities, human rights defenders, and wider civil society, to establish internationally binding and enforceable rules applicable to corporate conduct. Also within Europe we see there is increased support among academia, civil society organizations, and the wider public.
The European Union has an important role to play in the upcoming negotiations for global justice, especially in a time of rising isolationism. At a time at which the EU is proposing to start negotiations on an international framework for investor rights (the Multilateral Investment Court), we strongly believe that strengthening and upholding human rights for victims of corporate abuse in the context of investment should be prioritized.
We urge the European Union, and its Member States individually, to use this historic opportunity to support the UN treaty and show that Europe can be a champion on multilateralism and human rights and business.
We call on our governments, the Cohom and the European Commission to:
We very much hope that there will be a possibility to exchange thoughts before October 23rd, which could take different forms, such as providing analysis regarding the draft elements; convening an expert meeting, providing a presentation at the Cohom or holding bilateral or round table discussions.