Business and human rights: EU and UN instruments must work in tandem to guarantee justice

John Thys / AFP

13 October 2022. Days before the 8th session of discussions on a United Nations (UN) treaty on business and human rights and just as a draft European directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence is the focus of a heated negotiation in Brussels, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and six civil society organisations publish an expert study explaining how European Union (EU)-level and international corporate accountability norms can reinforce each other.

In the study, Nadia Bernaz, Markus Krajewski, Kinda Mohamadieh and Virginie Rouas, four leading legal experts, explain that the two instruments, while different in nature, are comparable. Both include provisions to regulate companies to respect human rights, by preventing and ceasing their negative impacts on people and planet, as well as rules to provide remedy and access to justice, while the UN Treaty also features an important focus on transnational obstacles to justice. The publication provides a helpful outline of the competence division between the EU and the Member States and goes on to analyse and compare the content of the draft proposals.

The analysis clearly demonstrates that one instrument cannot simply replace the other; both are not only complementary in nature, there is also ample opportunity for both processes to inspire and reinforce each other.

The NGOs who commissioned the study — CIDSE, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), FIAN, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Friends of the Earth Europe and SOMO — are also publishing their key takeaways from the study featuring strong recommendations to the European Union and its member states:

 the European Commission and European External Action Service should immediately submit a recommendation to the Council to agree a common position and obtain a mandate to engage in the negotiations for the UN Treaty, and Member States should work to ensure the EU submits such a request as soon as possible;
 the EU and Member States should participate actively and constructively in the UN Treaty negotiations including the upcoming 8th session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group between 24 – 28 October 2022;
 the European Commission, European Parliament and Member States should ensure complementary and ambitious European and international instruments laying out a robust and substantive corporate duty, and going beyond to ensure strong liability provisions, access to justice and effective remedy for affected people.

Read the key civil society takeaways from the study:

Read the full experts study:

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