Resolution on Transnationals, Free Trade Agreements, Development Model and Impacts on Human Rights

Press release
en es fr

Resolution adopted by FIDH 38th Congress

Presented by the Instituto de servicios legales alternativos [Institute of Alternative Legal Services] – ILSA, the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo [José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective ], Comité permanente para la defensa de los derechos humanos [Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights] (CPDH), and the Organización femenina popular [Popular Women’s Organisation ]- OFP (Columbia)

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) meeting at the 38th World Congress in Istanbul, Turkey held 23-27 May 2013, addressing the impact of transnational enterprisess, free trade agreements (FTA), and development model with respect to human rights:

  • Recalling that during the 37th FIDH Congress held in Erevan in April 2010, a resolution on the “impunity of crimes against the environment and violations of human rights committed by companies and/or as a result of free trade agreements” was approved.
  • Whereas several FIDH member organisations from Asia, Africa and the Americas which met in July 2012 approved the Lima Declaration on Human Rights and Corporations.
  • Observing that limited progress has been achieved in international law to prosecute and sanction companies for environmental crimes and human rights violations they have caused and to offer redress to the victims of these crimes, this despite the approval of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at the United Nations in June 2011.
  • Finding that the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights do not solve the issue of corporate responsibility for human rights violations simply through the establishment of voluntary guidelines.
  • Referring to the UN Secretary General Report A/HRC/21/12 of July 2012 that notes the tendency to supplant mandatory rules in international law with respect to human rights by applying voluntary principles, thus formalizing the renunciation of the United Nations System to legislate to investigate, prosecute, punish and redress human rights violations attributable to transnational corporations and other private agents of economic globalization.
  • Affirming that voluntary principles and codes of conduct and the reporting and investigative mechanisms put in place by international financial institutions or economic globalisation institutions such as the OECD, are clearly inadequate to guarantee protection of human rights and access to justice for communities affected by the impacts of transnational corporations, or development projects or associated with free trade agreements.
  • Observing that several governments have intensified the practice of criminalising legitimate social protest against mining and energy projects, infrastructure and agro-business linked to transnational capital.
  • Observing that social organisations and communities frequently document and report situations and cases of human rights violations and environmental crimes attributable to transnational corporations.
  • Observing that it is increasingly clear that the commitments made by states under free trade and investment protection agreements represent an imminent threat to the enjoyment of human rights and the environment of populations, communities and peoples.
  • Emphasising that self-determination is an inalienable right which includes the free choice of the economic development or social model appropriate for their own welfare and cultural visions, and which are frequently undermined by the actions of transnational corporations and the commitments made within the framework of some free trade agreements.

We are calling on states to:
 Regulate the activities of transnational corporations which fall under their jurisdiction, including when they act outside their borders, thus exercising their extraterritorial obligations in respect of human rights.

 Promote the legal and judicial mechanisms of protection for rights related to the environment, labour, public services, health, food, territory, prior consultation, access to information and self-determination, and for strict compliance to the obligations of civil and political rights, including measures to suspend the activities of companies when they cause human rights violations.

 Ensure and facilitate the access of to justice victims of human rights violations committed by companies, removing the practical and legal obstacles with respect to the enforceability of the right to truth, justice and reparation, including in the countries of origin of the companies.

 Comply with principles related to transparency and participation of the communities, incorporating regulations into their laws permitting human rights impact assessments of investment projects, and ensuring that projects cannot be promoted without consulting the affected communities and without the prior, informed and free consent of the affected ethnic communities.

 Prevent and punish forced evictions of communities in whose territories are conducted development projects funded by national or transnational capital.

 Accept and implement the Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights submittedelaborated by the Special Rapporteur in those situations of impoverished communities by the action of transnational corporations or effect of development projects involving the loss of their livelihoods.

 Protect the freedom of expression, protest and peaceful assembly of human rights defenders and of those who organise or publicly protest against investment projects, and not to misuse the criminal, civil or administrative law against them.

 Promote the development of international and regional norms with a view to establishing binding legal frameworks for the protection of human rights against the activities of companies, including effective accountability mechanisms.

 Meet the precautionary measures issued by human rights bodies and the recommendations of the Human Rights Council and UN treaty bodies on business and human rights.

We call on the UN to:
 Elaborate route for discussion and adoption of a Declaration on business and human rights that transcends the voluntary principles and can be interpreted in line with obligations of States under international human righs instruments.

 Establish a new UN working group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations with a reinforced mandate in order to initiate studies and document cases with respect to this matter, and point out to states recommendations in order to meet their obligation to protect rights in practice, including outside their borders and to improve the access of victims to justice.

Read more