Negotiations for a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights are underway at the UN


Negotiations for a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights are underway at the UN

Global unions and the ITUC are united in calling for a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights

With record numbers of civil society registered, negotiations over the “Zero Draft” of the Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights kicked off this week in Geneva.  Despite a range of differences over the draft, many participants stressed the urgency of the issue and the common commitment to put an end to corporate abuses.  The European Parliament recently expressed its support for the Binding Treaty and, unlike in past sessions, the EU was present and willing to participate, although very reserved about its support for the document. 

UNI Global Union General Secretary Christy Hoffman said,  “There is real momentum for a legally binding instrument to implement the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights through cross-border enforcement and real access to justice for victims.   We’ve had enough of the double standard:  soft law when it comes to human rights but legally enforceable rules that protect corporate interests.  

“The Chambers of Commerce should recognize that this is the way of the future.  If they really want to level the playing field, we should apply the same rules everywhere.  We won’t accept if companies compete on the basis of human rights.  We know it won’t be easy, but we aim for progress this week towards a Treaty down the road.” 

The zero draft includes crucial provisions which would represent a big step forward in ensuring corporate accountability throughout global supply chains:

  • a requirement for businesses to adopt and apply human rights due diligence policies and procedures;
  • a strong focus on access to effective judicial recourse for victims of human rights violations;
  • a basis for “parent-based extraterritorial jurisdiction”, which will allow workers to have access to justice in the home countries of multinational companies; and mutual legal assistance and international cooperation between states in transnational cases.

The global trade union movement is calling for improvements to the draft, including:

  • a re-statement of the duty of businesses to respect human rights throughout their operations;
  • explicit recognition that human rights standards have primacy over trade and investment agreements;
  • alignment of due diligence provisions with the existing UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; and
  • creation of a strong international enforcement mechanism beyond the frameworks which have been proposed so far for the Treaty.

You can read the global unions position paper for the negotiations here



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