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Opinion

A Progressing Approach on Conflict-Affected Settings and Situations of Occupation

On 16 July 2019, the revised draft of the legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises (hereinafter, legally binding instrument) was released. The current revised draft of the legally binding instrument integrated various provisions and elements which were proposed by civil society organisations. This includes but is not limited to an increased and necessary inclusion of and reference to international humanitarian law; specific provisions on situations of occupation and protected populations; amended language on legal liability to encompass internationally-recognized crimes that corporations may be involved in and complicit in aiding and abetting; as well as provisions aimed at ensuring the protection of human rights defenders and the environment. The continuity of the process and publication of an updated draft of the legally binding instrument, in a timely manner, is certainly a step in the right direction towards realizing a binding treaty to regulate the activities of business enterprises, particularly those of a transnational character, and which aims to hold corporations accountable, while prioritising human rights and the rule of law over corporate interest and affluence, at all times.

The legally binding instrument, in its current draft, attempts to provide better established rights for affected individuals and communities, including human rights defenders and protected persons and populations, among other groups that are at high risk in the context of corporate activities. It is important that the legally binding instrument continues to be developed in a way that more closely resembles the language of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and rights guaranteed under international law, including international humanitarian law and international criminal law, especially in relation to prevention, due diligence and legal liability.