UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights advances

On the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week was once again the treaty on transnational corporations and human rights . Even if it was only the presentation of the report of the second session of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG), this was an important step towards the third negotiating session to be held in October 2017, when delegations Governmental organizations will discuss a first draft of the treaty.

As expressed by many states and civil society organizations, the report presented on 9 March by the IGWG President, Ambassador María Fernanda Espinosa of Ecuador, reflects a wealth of proposals from States, civil society, affected communities, academics , UN experts and other actors raised during the last two years, whose purpose is to establish binding international standards for the largest and most powerful companies in the world, which obliges them to respect human rights.

Once again, Friends of the Earth International (ATI / FoEI) was present with a delegation in Geneva that shared the concerns and demands of civil society. Just a couple of days after the first anniversary of the murder of Berta Cáceres , ATI representatives reminded the States in a timely manner of urgent action against the criminalization of and violence against human rights defenders Human and environmental rights that defend their rights and their territories from the companies that come to encroach on them.

“Systematic violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of many communities that are deprived of their lands and their livelihoods are possible and facilitated because of the participation or support and support of many investors and companies to whom International law does not forcefully bind human rights. “

Apollin Koagne Zouapet, Senior Counsel, CED / Friends of the Earth Cameroon

“It is not possible to achieve effective protection of human rights and environmental defenders if it is not addressed and rather evades the responsibility that has in those acts one of the main perpetrators of such violations. International court and effective mechanisms for sanctioning transnational corporations to prevent large companies from hiding behind investment protection agreements and the legal status of their subsidiaries to continue operating with impunity. ”

Juliette Renaud, corporate accountability campaign, Friends of the Earth France

It was encouraging to hear the support interventions of many developing countries to the Treaty process, especially from Tunis on behalf of the African Group, followed by welcome speeches by Botswana, Nigeria and South Africa. Unlike last year, in its written statement this time the EU thanked the IGWG Chair for her report. The Treaty process is now picking up speed.

“We can not depend on voluntary measures alone, as they do not make companies accountable. There have been promising recent developments in Europe, such as the French law on duty of care and the Dutch law of due diligence in work cases We are hoping that these examples will help build support for the UN Treaty, but we are witnessing that large companies are resistant to any binding regulatory initiative, which is why it is essential that we protect discussions about the Treaty from any attempt at corporate co-optation “.

Anne Van Schaik, campaign against the financial sector, Friends of the Earth Europe .

2017 should be a year of more robust mobilization of all sectors pushing for a strong process of IGWG negotiations around the formulation of the elements and structure of this new binding UN Treaty. Friends of the Earth International and its member groups in 75 countries is committed to supporting environmental and human rights advocates around the world, who require urgent protection of their rights, access to justice, and Accountability and accountability to transnational corporations for their rights violations.

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