BANGKOK—Over one hundred civil society organizations and social movements have publicly joined the growing call for States to begin taking steps toward establishing a binding international treaty to deal with corporate human rights abuses. The statement coincides with the beginning of the second annual UN Forum on Business & Human Rights in Geneva.
The joint statement originated as an initiative of participants who attended the International Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR-Net) Peoples` Forum on Human Rights & Business, celebrated in Bangkok during 5–7 November 2013.
Those who signed the statement affirmed the applicability of human rights obligations to the operations of transnational corporations and called on States to monitor and regulate the operations of business enterprises under their jurisdiction, including when acting outside their national territory. The obligation on States to do this is commonly referred to as States` extraterritorial obligations, or “ETOs,” as outlined in part by the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“I strongly believe that we need a binding international regulation for businesses, because of their growing human rights abuses all over the world,” said Mr. Legborsi Saro, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People of Nigeria and board member of ESCR-Net.
For Chris Grove, director of ESCR-Net, “binding regulation is an important step in establishing the primary obligation to respect human rights before any other consideration of private gain or economic growth.” “For these rights to be meaningful, they must be accompanied by effective remedies for individuals and groups who experience violations,” he indicated.
This wide-ranging call for a binding treaty is distinct from other nonbinding approaches currently being promoted at the international level. In particular, the call includes a requirement that states establish an “accountability mechanism,” something critics have readily pointed out is missing from the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The gathering at Bangkok asserted that a treaty could be a natural accompaniment to the efforts underway to advance these Guiding Principles.
Signatories to this statement are a broad mix of civil society groups, including both social movements, as well as small and large NGOs from all regions of the world. This broad collection of signatories calls for action from the Human Rights Council in the form of the establishment of “an open-ended working group tasked with a drafting mandate.”
This call on the Human Rights Council to act will focus the attention of those in Geneva on the future of the UN`s approach to corporate accountability, especially in light of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights reaching the end of their first mandate in mid-2014.
For more information and live update on UN Forum on Business & Human Rights in Geneva, contact Genevieve Paul (ESCR-Net member and representative of FIDH) at +33 64–805–9119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) is a collaborative initiative of groups and individuals from around the world working to secure economic and social justice through human rights. ESCR-Net seeks to strengthen the field of all human rights, with a special focus on economic, social and cultural rights, and further develop the tools for achieving their promotion, protection and fulfillment. Through ESCR-Net, groups and individuals can exchange information, develop a collective voice, amplify their actions, develop new tools and strategies. By facilitating joint actions, enhancing communications and building solidarity across regions, the network seeks to build a global movement to make human rights and social justice a reality for all.