UN binding treaty on business and human rights: FIDH’s preliminary comments

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16 October 2023. As States prepare for the 9th session of negotiations for a United Nations (UN) binding treaty on business and human rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) publishes its position on the latest draft - one featuring some positive additions, but also many steps back in bringing about corporate accountability.

From 23 to 27 October 2023, States will gather in Geneva, Switzerland, for the 9th session of negotiations for a UN Binding Treaty on Business & Human Rights. Since 2014, a UN Intergovernmental Working Group has been mandated to elaborate the Treaty, aimed at setting rights obligations for transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

FIDH and 17 of its members - 7 from Latin America, 5 from Europe, 3 from the Middle East, 1 from Asia, and 1 from Africa - have published their preliminary comments on the Updated Draft of the Treaty. It is the latest contribution in FIDH and its members’ decades-long advocacy for a strong and effective legally binding instrument that can eliminate major gaps in the protection of human rights from corporate human rights abuses and violations.

The overall picture is one of significant changes compared to the previous Third Revised Draft, some of which are concerning. While the text is generally more streamlined, several articles are less protective of rights-holders than the previous versions of the draft. The key articles seeking to facilitate access to justice for those affected have been weakened.

Many changes also reflect efforts to reduce the substantive scope of the Treaty. FIDH and its members particularly regret the elimination of multiple references to business impacts on the environment and climate, to conflict-affected areas, and to labour rights instruments. A number of positive additions or modifications cannot compensate for the fact that the latest draft is overall a step back from previous drafts, especially when it comes to corporate liability for violations.

FIDH and its members call on States to make substantive comments during the 9th negotiation session, with the aim to better reflect what civil society organisations have been asking since the beginning of this process and to ensure that the Treaty does not leave companies to do business as usual to the detriment of human rights and the planet.

Read our position here.

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