Significant vote at the UN Human Rights Council: ray of hope to address corporate abuses, yet important concerns remain

Paris, 26th June 2014 - Today, during its 26th session, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on the creation of an open-ended intergovernmental working group whose mandate will be to « elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises ».

FIDH welcomes this significant vote by the HRC as a promising step towards corporate accountability. This resolution echoes a global call from FIDH and over 500 civil society organisations and social movements for a binding instrument on business and human rights.

Tabled by Ecuador and South Africa, the resolution was adopted by 20 votes in favour, 13 abstentions and 14 against, including the US and EU members. States who voted against have clearly missed an opportunity to prove their commitments to the business and human rights agenda, said Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General.

FIDH emphasises however that such process can only be successful if a truly inclusive and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders is sustained. FIDH calls on all States and stakeholders to collaborate to address protection gaps and to advance together towards stronger prevention of corporate-related abuses and robust enforcement mechanisms, so that victims of corporate abuse can enjoy their right to remedy, including reparation.

FIDH salutes the Human Rights Council’s vote, but regrets that the resolution excludes « local businesses registered in terms of relevant domestic law ». This restrictive definition of « other business enterprises » is inconsistent with the definition included in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and presents an obstacle towards achieving comprehensive corporate accountability. FIDH hopes this will be addressed when clarifying the scope of such instrument to ensure,at a minimum, that subsidiaries and entities in the supply chain can be included.

FIDH also recalls the fundamental rights of all persons to be protected against abuses committed by companies, including at the domestic level. As FIDH emphasised in a recent briefing paper, strengthening the international framework should be seen as complementary and mutually reinforcing with efforts to strengthen existing national and regional frameworks.

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