Negotiations of a international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights must intensify

18/11/2019
Statement

Last week was held the fifth session of the Open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (OEIGWG).

Since the vote of resolution 26/9 at the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, this Working Group has been mandated to elaborate a legally binding instrument that seeks to address the numerous gaps that impede victims’ access to justice and remedy in cases of corporate-related human rights and environmental abuses.

The International Federation for Human Rights FIDH at its 40th Congress in Taipei City, Taiwan reiterates its support for the elaboration of a legally binding treaty; such an instrument has the potential to further corporate accountability and respect for human rights by all members of society.

In this respect, FIDH underlines that the new draft published in July 2019 constitutes a solid basis for negotiations. With a broader scope encompassing all business enterprises it focuses on accountability for business abuses, access to justice and the right to an effective remedy and reparation. At the same time it recognizes the fundamental challenges created by transnational business activities and complex corporate structures, underlining the specific needs of Human Rights Defenders, women, marginalised groups and communities living in conflict areas.

Nevertheless, this text must be strengthened in order to constitute a substantial step forward in the protection of human rights from corporate abuses.

The FIDH Congress acknowledges the progress made by the Working Group and appreciates that many delegations, civil society organisations, indigenous people, experts and National Human Rights Institutions actively engaged in discussions, offering substantive analyses and recommendations on the draft text. It welcomes, in particular, the commitment to organize direct substantive intergovernmental negotiations during a sixth session in 2020 on the basis of a revised draft, and to hold comprehensive and periodic informal consultations in preparation for this session.

Delegates are, however, concerned by the inadequate time devoted textual negotiations thus far, and by the reluctance of some States to actively engage in the discussions using a diversity of excuses.

FIDH’s 40th congress recommends:

1) States and Regional Intergovernmental Organizations to actively commit to the elaboration of the legally binding instrument, by engaging in in-depth analyses of the draft treaty, organizing local and regional consultations with civil society, indigenous people and experts and by elaborating clear negotiation mandates in view of the next steps of the process.
2) The Chairperson-Rapporteur to organize informal intersessional consultations which must constitute a meaningful discussion with states and a firm basis to advance towards text negotiations. These discussions may be focused on specific articles or issues with a view to enable better understanding and agreement among States and should ensure effective participation of civil society and indigenous people.
3) The drafters to take into account the numerous inputs provided by civil society organizations and indigenous people to answer existing gaps in the new draft document.

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