Regional report: The development of binding normative frameworks on business and human rights in Latin America

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), together with four of its member organisations, publishes a Regional Report which includes an extensive analysis of recommendations and positions of civil society organisations in the region, key principles and standards of the inter-american system for the protection of human rights, and consultations and dialogue with experts.

Brasilia, 18 and 19 April 2024. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Observatorio Ciudadano (Chile), Peru Equidad (Peru), Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (Brazil) and Justicia Global (Brazil) are pleased to announce the launch of their "Regional Report: Legislative Agenda on Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses and Environmental Damage in Latin America", at a public event in Brasilia on 18 April, 2024. The launch will be followed by comments and reflections from representatives of the governments of Chile and Brazil, as well as civil society experts from the region.

On the same day, Observatorio Ciudadano, Peru Equidad, Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos and Justicia Global will publish national reports dedicated to the analysis of their regulatory frameworks and the elaboration of concrete proposals for the strengthening of corporate legal responsibility in respective their countries. On 19 April, 2024, representatives from various sectors of civil society will continue the exchange and debate strategies for the adoption and strengthening of human rights and environmental corporate accountability frameworks.

The Regional Report outlines key areas of reform and/or strengthening of legal norms necessary for an effective regime of prevention, oversight and sanction of human rights and environmental abuses by companies, as well as their civil, criminal and/or administrative legal liability for these abuses. It also recommends essential interventions to make effective the right of access to justice, information and participation, as well as the intercultural and gender approach in business practices.

The meeting is of particular importance in the current Latin American context. On the one hand, the magnitude and recurrence of human rights abuses and environmental damage by companies, as well as the high degree of impunity with which many companies operate, are now widely evidenced and unquestionable. Economies based primarily on extractivism and the exploitation of natural resources continue to seriously endanger the human rights of indigenous peoples, afrodescendants and local communities. Human rights defenders who raise their voices in their defence are persecuted, criminalised and often killed.

Other common patterns in the context of business activity in the region include precariousness and exploitation of labour, forced or child labour, discrimination and gender-based violence. The need to adapt existing regulatory frameworks, design public policies and introduce new laws to curb these abuses has never been more urgent.

On the other hand, many countries in the Global North have begun to enact laws that impose on some of their companies, generally larger ones, an obligation to respect human rights, or to act with due diligence, in order to prevent the negative impacts on human rights in their activities and supply chains. Recently, the European Union adopted the final text of a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. In addition to marking a global trend towards regulation, these laws will have concrete repercussions in Latin America.

In this context, it is likely that Latin American companies that are part of global supply chains will be forced to implement due diligence norms, in response to the demands of European or companies from other parts of the world subject to these new laws. Governments in the region will thus need to enact their own laws to help level the playing field between these companies and others whose activities are purely domestic.

Faced with this situation, Latin American countries can choose to leave the regulation of local companies or those operating in their territories in the hands of the laws of other countries, particularly countries in the Global North, or to introduce domestic legislation that responds to local realities and needs.

Today, some signs of engagement are beginning to emerge in the region. Thanks to the tireless work of civil society organisations, coalitions, and social movements some governments have begun to take concrete steps towards regulation, including in Peru, Brazil, and Chile.

In Peru, there is already a proposed law on corporate due diligence to which the Peruvian Ministry of Justice has given a first positive response. Brazil also has a draft national framework law on human rights and business, currently under consideration by the Chamber of Deputies of the National Congress. The government programme of the current president of Chile, for its part, includes the drafting of a new law on corporate due diligence. This process is already underway and has included preliminary dialogues with representatives of civil society, workers and academia.

The meeting in Brasilia on 18-19 April is part of this process of debate and elaboration of effective public policies and legal reform proposals for the region. The hope is that this meeting will serve to generate reflection and dialogue among all participants and contribute to the collective process of drafting effective laws and regimes of corporate legal responsibility for Latin America.

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