States should engage in an historical Treaty process at the United Nations

Paris - Geneva – 19 October 2017. From 23 to 27 October potentially historical discussions on a future treaty that will bind all transnational corporations to respect human rights will be held at the UN in Geneva. Faced with high stake negotiations, the position of many States still remains unknown or uncertain. For the negotiations to be a success, the majority of States must engage now to build the international framework to fight against serious abuses committed by certain companies.

On October 2, ahead of the third discussion session of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on a treaty requiring transnational corporations to respect human rights, Ecuador presented initial elements for the draft of this binding instrument. Open to discussion, it will be debated from 23 to 27 October at the United Nations in Geneva. It is essential that States are involved in the process in order to arrive at a binding international treaty in the coming years.

In its preliminary observations published today, FIDH stresses that these proposals should include the obligation of each State to facilitate victims’ access to justice in cases of human rights violations by all companies. FIDH also stresses the need to involve transnational corporations, asking States to require them to put in place a "vigilance plan". They should then systematically assess the consequences of their actions on human rights, both in the countries in which their headquarters are located and abroad.

As FIDH has demonstrated several times [1], the "soft law” framework provided so far for the regulation of corporate activities has proved insufficient to fill the persisting gaps regarding the prevention of negative human rights impacts, protection of right holders and access to remedy for victims of corporate abuses.

While States like France have announced that they would participate in a constructive and pragmatic manner in the negotiations to bring about a binding treaty, others have shown hostility (US) or have been unsure of which approach to take, despite a strong interest (European Union). As many States seem hesitant, it belongs to the leading countries to give the necessary impetus.

Civil society is fully mobilized to change the balance of power, with more than 900 organizations gathered in the "Treaty Alliance." They will be present in Geneva next week. FIDH and many of its member organisations [2] will be in Geneva during the discussions on the Treaty to put forth their concerns and recommendations.

Two side events will be organized with our partners :
- Tuesday 24 October13.30-15.00 on the depth of the international instrument on Business and human rights;
- Wednesday 25 October 13.00-15.00 on access to effective remedy for affected communities and human rights defenders.

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