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The treaty on transnational corporations and human rights enters “negotiation mode”

Geneva: November 1, 2017 – The Global Campaign (1) welcomes the end of a successful week of intense work moving towards decisive negotiations on a binding treaty on transnational corporations (TNCs) and human rights, despite challenges from the EU with support from the US.

More than 100 states and over 200 representatives of social movements, trade unions and civil society organizations were at the UN in Geneva during the third session of the UN inter governmental working group (2), from October 23-27, 2017. Members of parliaments from more than 20 countries and the European Parliament (3), as well as more than 700 civil society organizations have indicated strong public support for the process.

The UN working group, tasked with elaborating a treaty on TNCs and human rights was due to finish its third session on October 27, when a representative for the United States – which has not participated in the three-year process after it voted against the resolution 26/9 in 2014, saying this “binding treaty will not be binding for those who voted against it” – unexpectedly joined a key meeting and suggested the working group would need a new mandate from the Human Rights Council to continue its work. However, the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council confirmed that the working group does not need a new resolution and that it will go forward with its work until a treaty is negotiated.
The closing Recommendations of the Chair-Rapporteur of the working group, Ambassador Guillaume Long, Permanent Representative of Ecuador in Geneva, committed to a road-map for the negotiation process for the fourth working group session in 2018 and to further annual sessions.

The Draft Report and Conclusions were approved by consensus and will be submitted for final approval to the UNHRC in March 2018. Furthermore, it was agreed that the Elements paper towards a Treaty proposed by Ecuador in this third session remains open for further comment until the end of February and will then, together with the outcomes from the 2015 and 2016 sessions, form the basis for developing the zero draft treaty for the fourth working group session in 2018.

“This is a victory for supporters of the process towards a treaty. Political pressure from social movements, NGOs and communities affected by TNCs’ human rights violations, was essential to overcoming obstructive tactics used by several parties, especially the EU,” said Lynne Davis, La Via Campesina.

“Current measures to prevent human rights violations and abuses in the operations of TNCs are not sufficient. While TNCs benefit from a wide range of investor protection mechanisms and loopholes in international law, the people who lose their lives, livelihoods and territories because of TNCs’ activities are often repeatedly denied justice,” according to Gonzalo Berron, a researcher at the Transnational Institute.
“Corporate self-regulation is not enough. Human rights defenders confronting TNCs’ operations are being killed, such as Berta Caceres from Honduras and many other cases raised at the UN this week. This process towards a legally-binding treaty is urgently needed. This is the message which communities affected by TNCs’ operations are bringing to their governments and to the UN process,” according to Apollin Koagne Zoupet from Cameroon, representing Friends of the Earth International (FOEI).

As demonstrated during the last three sessions, The Global Campaign is fully committed to contributing to this process with proposals based on the experiences of affected communities and social movements. Mary Ann Manahan, of the World March of Women-Philippines commented “The proposal for a Treaty on Transnational Corporations and their Supply Chains with Regard to Human Rights (4) presented by the Global Campaign is a very significant text to move forward negotiations between the States towards a draft Treaty during the coming year.

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Statement the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign), a network of over 200 social movements and affected communities resisting land grabs, extractive mining, exploitative wages and environmental destruction, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Website: https://www.stopcorporateimpunity.org/