Three important calls for States to support a treaty on business and human rights (updated)

Civil society, a large group of experts and the European Parliament have called on States to engage in the process for the creation of an international treaty on business and human rights. As readers may be aware, the intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights produced a “zero draft” of the treaty in July in advance of its next meeting this month.

Trócaire, one of Ireland’s largest civil society organisations which has worked on business and human rights issues for a number of years, has put forward a call for the Irish and UK governments to engage in the treaty-making process as part of its campaign on protecting human rights defenders:

Some private companies are responsible for serious human rights violations. These range from threats to violent attacks on communities and individuals (known as human rights defenders). An International Treaty on Business and Human Rights is needed to hold private companies accountable for these violations, and to protect human rights defenders. Trócaire is calling on the Irish and UK Governments to constructively engage in the process towards creating an International Treaty on Business and Human Rights.

Trócaire have launched a petition which can be signed here.

The second call comes from a group of over 150 scholars and experts in the field of business and human rights who have written an open letter similarly calling on States to join in the process:

…we strongly urge all states to engage constructively and in good faith with the process of negotiating an international legally binding instrument. By doing so, states will demonstrate their continuous commitment to respect, protect and fulfil all human rights amidst the challenges of the 21st century.

The open letter, which I have signed, addresses the relationship between the treaty-making process and existing initiatives, the need to address gaps, the mandate of the working group and the “zero draft” as an imperfect but valuable starting point for further negotiation.

As Surya Deva reminded me on twitter, the European Parliament has also called for States to engaged with the treaty negotiation process. In a Resolution adopted this month, the Parliament welcomed the activity of the UN Working Group as “a necessary step forward in the promotion and protection of human rights” and called on the EU and its Member States “to engage genuinely and constructively in these negotiations and in the intergovernmental process aimed at the completion of the OEIGWG’s mandate”. The Resolution highlighted

the paramount importance of the EU constructively contributing to the achievement of a Binding Treaty which will effectively address the issue of corporate liability for human rights violations and related challenges

Civil society, experts, elected representatives and a number of States have been prominent in seeking to drive the treaty process forward, but it is now at a critical point and requires much greater engagement by States if the process is to yield some much-needed success.

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