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24 Okt 2022

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights

Day 1: Monday 24 October 2022

The first day of the 8th session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) kicked off today in Geneva with a reminder by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, of the importance of a binding treaty at this time. The morning session comprised of statements by member states. In the afternoon, civil society organisations (CSOs), NHRIs, and business and employers' organisations made statements. There was also a panel discussion on the binding treaty and the road ahead.

  • The EU expressed concern for this year’s treaty process and repeated as in last year’s session that it believes in the potential of an international process, but that the draft treaty must also be “implementable”.
  • Côte d'Ivoire, as the new head of the African Intergovernmental Working Group, delivered a statement on behalf of the African Group, expressing support for the process and the Third Revised Draft, noting that victims must be at the centre of discussions, and that opportunities for further elaboration of certain provisions and constructive discussions during the session can strengthen the treaty. Its position is that the Third Revised Draft should be the only basis for discussion.
  • South Africa and Côte d'Ivoire aligned themselves with the position of the African Group, including that the Third Revised Draft should be the only basis for discussion. This was reiterated by Palestine and Namibia.
  • The US position remained that this issue should be dealt with at the national level and that as such a treaty should be less prescriptive in its approach.
  • The UK stated that it is not able to support the draft text as it stands, as there is no overall support for the treaty.
  • Australia declared that it will not participate further in the negotiations as the treaty process was not endorsed by consensus, and the proposed treaty cannot provide an adequate basis for protection.
  • Russia and China expressed concern that the Third Draft of the treaty exceeds the boundaries of the OEIGWG’s mandate stated in the original Human Rights Council Resolution.

  • Numerous CSOs highlighted the importance of maintaining access to redress and remedy as legally binding in the treaty. They also stressed that with the current process, including the institution of the Friends of the Chair initiative, the OEIGWG strays from its mandate.
  • Other CSOs stressed that a treaty should include stronger provisions to address environmental protections and children’s rights. CSOs also argued that the negotiation process should incorporate perspectives from the Global South, women, and Indigenous communities.
  • Organisations representing corporations and employers emphasised that wider participation by states is needed for a strong treaty, and that some provisions are currently too broad and thus infeasible for implementation.

  • The second half of the afternoon session was composed of a panel discussion, featuring Professors Robert McCorquodale and Surya Deva on the future of a binding treaty.
  • The panellists raised concerns regarding insufficient state participation in negotiations and stalling progress over the past few years. They also stated that the treaty should focus on victims and their access to remedy. Professor Deva specifically proposed that the “Friends of the Chair” include African state representatives, members of CSOs, and academics in order to build further consensus for the treaty.

The recording of the sessions is available on UN tv here (morning) and here (afternoon).