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Site last updated Fri 18 Apr 2014

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Main Content: Calls for a binding treaty on business & human rights - perspectives

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[PDF] "Does the World Need a Treaty on Business and Human Rights? Weighing the Pros and Cons"
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre & University of Notre Dame Law School human rights speaker series event (London, 14 May)

In August 2013, at the Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights for Latin America and the Caribbean, and later at UN Human Rights Council session in September 2013, the representative of Ecuador before the UN made a declaration regarding "Transnational Corporations and Human Rights". With this statament the goverment of Ecuador proposed a legally binding international instrument on business & human rights to be concluded within the UN system.  The instrument envisioned "would clarify the obligations of transnational corporations in the field of human rights" and "provide for the establishment of effective remedies for victims in cases where domestic jurisdiction is clearly unable to" provide them.  The declaration was supported by the African Group, the Arabic Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru.  Over a hundred regional and international human rights organizations and social movements welcomed the petition.  The action taken by the Ecuadorian government was ratified in Geneva at the 2nd Forum on Business and Human Rights on 3 and 4 December 2014.

On 28 January 2014, the former UN Special Representative on business & human rights, Professor John Ruggie released an issues brief in response to Ecuador's proposal for a legally binding instrument.

Below are links to these documents, as well as related commentaries. We welcome additional commentaries and perspectives for this page - please contact Irene Pietropaoli at pietropaoli@business-humanrights.org

Ecuador Govt. statement to UN Human Rights Council 

[PDF] Statement on behalf of a Group of Countries at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council
Republic of Ecuador, at UN Human Rights Council, Sep 2013

[Español] [PDF] Declaración en nombre de un grupo de países en la 24 ª edición de sesiones del Consejo de Derechos Humanos
República del Ecuador, 13 septiembre 2013

Civil society statement 

Statement to the Human Rights Council in Support of the Initiative of a Group of States for a Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations
Signed by over 90 civil society organisations, 13 Sep 2013

[EspañolDeclaración Ante El Consejo De Derechos Humanos En Apoyo A La Iniciativa De Un Grupo De Estados Hacia La Institución De Un Instrumento Legal Vinculante Sobre Corporaciones Transnacionales
Firmado por más de 90 organisaciones, 13 de septiembre 2013

[Español] [PDF] Comunicación presentada al Grupo de Trabajo de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Cuestión de los Derechos Humanos y las Empresas Transnacionales y las Empresas Comerciales, con vistas al Foro sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos de 2013
Comité Internacional de Coordinación de las Instituciones Nacionales para la Promoción y Protección de los Derechos Humanos (CIC) – Grupo de Trabajo sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos, 2013 

Issues Brief by John Ruggie

A UN Business and Human Rights Treaty? An Issues Brief by John G. Ruggie
John Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights, 28 Jan 2014 (John Ruggie developed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were endorsed by consensus by all the governments on the UN Human Rights Council in 2011). 

UN workshop "Human Rights and Transnational Corporation: Paving the way for a legally binding instrument"

[PDF] Oral Statement by Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) at the side event organized by the missions of Ecuador and South Africa at the UNHRC session in Geneva, March 12-13 on human rights and the operations of transnational corporations and other business entities
Friends of the Earth International, 12 Mar 2014

[PDF] The Human Rights Obligations of Business: Reimagining the Treaty Business
Surya Deva, 12 Mar 2014

[PDF] Workshop on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights - Oral Statement
CETIM, 11 Mar 2014

[PDF] Oral Statement of FIAN International at the Workshop on Human Rights and Business organized by the Permanent Mission of Ecuador and the South Center on 10th and 11 of March 2014
Fian Intl., 11 Mar 2014

[PDF] Comments in relation to the Workshop on Human Rights and Business organized by the Permanent Mission of Ecuador and the South Center
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), 11 Mar 2014

[PDF] UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights statement at a workshop organised by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Ecuador on “Human Rights and Transnational Corporations: Paving the way for a legally binding instrument”
UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, 11-12 Mar 2014

[Español] Ecuador organiza panel sobre derechos humanos y empresas transnacionales en Ginebra
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Comercio e Integración (Ecuador), 13 marzo de 2014

[PDF] Presentation by Carlos Lopez at the Workshop on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations- Paving the Way for a Legally Binding Instrument (Geneva, 11-12 Mar 2014)
Carlos Lopez, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

[PDF] Oral Statement of ESCR-Net at the Side Event in Human Rights & Business organized by the Permanent Missions of Ecuador and South Africa
ESCR-Net, 10 Mar 2014

[PDF] Letter open for signatories on contradictions in Ecuadorian human rights policy
10 Feb 2014

[Español] [PDF] Carta abierta de organizaciones de derechos humanos sobre contradicciones del Estado ecuatoriano en materia de derechos humanos
10 de febrero de 2014

[PDF] Invitation by Mission of Ecuador to workshop "Human Rights and Transnational Corporation: Paving the way for a legally binding instrument" (Geneva, Switzerland, 11-12 March 2014)
[PDF] Background, objectives of workshop & list of possible panelist
Misión Permanente del Ecuador ante la ONU y otros Organismos Internacionales

Permanent Mission of Ecuador in Geneva workshop on binding instrument on business & human rights (11-12 Mar, Geneva, Switzerland)

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre & University of Notre Dame event

[PDF] "Does the World Need a Treaty on Business and Human Rights? Weighing the Pros and Cons"
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre & University of Notre Dame Law School human rights speaker series event (London, 14 May)

Additional initiatives & commentaries

CIDSE recommends intergovernmental process towards binding treaty on business & human rights
[PDF] Full text of briefing
[Français] [PDF] Cadre de l'ONU relatif aux entreprises et aux droits de l'homme: Instaurer un processus intergouvernemental aboutissant à la mise en place d'un instrument contraignant
[Español] [PDF] Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos: Desarrollar un proceso intergubernamental para la creación de un instrumento vinculante
CIDSE, 4 April 2014

Legal accountability of non-State actors for human rights violations abroad: March developments in Geneva
Lucy McKernan, Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 31 Mar 2014

Access to remedy
Adrienne Margolis, Lawyers for Better Business (L4BB), 18 Mar 2014

Multilateral Agreement on Investment: Time to Awaken the Beast? – A contribution to the “Business and Human Rights Treaty” Debate
Nadia Bernaz (Middlesex University), Rights as Usual, 28 Feb 2014

L4BB calls for comments on proposals for intl. tribunal on corporate liability for human rights abuses
[PDF] Draft paper open for comments

Lawyers for Better Business (L4BB), 25 Feb 2014

[Español] Embajador de Ecuador ante la ONU, Luis Gallegos, explica la necesidad de un instrumento internacional vinculante sobre empresas y derechos humanos
Ecuadorinmediato.com, 13 Feb 2013

[PDF] Speech of Richard Howitt MEP, European Parliament Rapporteur on Corporate Social Responsibility to Seminar on "Purpose of the Corporation" with focus on European corporate governance rules 
European Parliament, Brussels, 11 February 2014

Ruggie versus Ecuador: Will a human rights norm ever emerge regardless of Western support?
Koldo Casla, for Rights in Context, 9 Feb 2014

Human rights pressure on business
Sudeep Chakravarti, Livemint, 30 Jan 2014

100+ groups publicly call on United Nations to develop new binding instrument to address corporate human rights abuses
ESCR-Net, 13 Dec 2013

[PDF] Call for an international legally binding instrument on human rights, transnational corporations and other business enterprises
ESCR-Net, Food First Information and Action Network, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) & International Commission of Jurists, Nov 2013

[Español] [PDF] Llamado por un instrumento internacional obligatorio sobre derechos humanos y empresas - abierto a firmas adicionales[Versión en Español a partir de la tercera página]
ESCR-Net, Food First Information and Action Network, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Commission of Jurists, noviembre de 2013

[PDF] High Level Discussion on advancing Business and Human Rights in the Human Rights Council
International Commission of Jurists, Parallel event, 20th session Human Rights Council, 21 Jun 2012

Towards a legally binding treaty on human rights and multinational companies?
Chris Esdaile, Leigh Day & Co., 5 Dec 2013

Speech at UN Forum's Closing Plenary Session
Debbie Stothard, Intl. Federation for Human Rights & Altsean-Burma, 4 Dec 2013

Beyond the Guiding Principles? Examining new calls for a legally binding instrument on business and human rights
Peter Muchlinski (Prof. of Intl. Commercial Law, School of Oriental & African Studies [SOAS, London]) on Institute for Human Rights and Business, 15 Oct 2013

Without Rules - A Failed Approach to Corporate Accountability
[François] L’absence de règles dans le monde des affaires
[Español] Sin Normas
العربية] قواعد - المنهج الفاشل لمحاسبة المؤسسات التجارية]
Christopher Albin-Lackey, Human Rights Watch, 2013

response to Christopher Albin-Lackey: Progress in Corporate Accountability, Prof. John Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights, on Institute for Human Rights and Business, 4 Feb 2013 

Earlier approaches to a legally binding instrument

The human rights obligations of transnational corporations were the subject of earlier draft instruments:

  • The UN Commission on Transnational Corporations elaborated a draft UN Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations in the 1970s and 1980s.  However the draft was never finalised.

  • The "Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights" were adopted by the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 2003.  The UN Commission on Human Rights considered the Norms in 2004, but did not approve them and said they had "no legal standing".  For explanatory materials on the UN Sub-Commission Norms, text of the Norms, key commentaries, and the decision by the UN Commission, click here.

 

  • At the Vienna+20 CSO conference held in Vienna on 25-26 June 2013, some participants called on governments to develop a binding system of international regulation and norms for transnational corporations. At the Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights in Medellín, Colombia, in August 2013, more than 100 NGOs called for a binding instrument. During a Round Table in the European Parliament in Brussels on 5 September, governments were also asked for a binding instrument to address the accountability of transnational corporations. 


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