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8 Aug 2018

Sudden Chakravarti, LiveMint

A watered down treaty on business and human rights?

The formal name for the work-in-progress treaty is: "Legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises."...[A major issue] is containment of the treaty to transnational businesses...

This logic may be untenable in a world in which definitions of transnational and national are increasingly fuzzy with confounding webs of holding companies, joint ventures and subsidiaries. Moreover, "this restrictive approach risks creating an uneven playing field for domestic and transnational enterprises..." write Julianne Hughes-Jennett, Peter Hood and Alison Berthet of Hogan Lovells' Business and Human Rights practice. "It may also deprive victims of a means to access a remedy against a domestic enterprise..."

The other key concern is of a watered-down treaty, more “face” than substance, as developed countries and business lobby groups undermine it as they have from the inception of the treaty process. All it might do is supplement current practice: nudge litigants to demand greater remedial action, and for businesses to be more vigilant about rights violations, supply chain management and potential liability. But even that will have been productive. Reducing bent corporate behaviour is its own virtue.