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5 Nov 2020

Lydia de Leeuw,
Maisie Biggs,

Re-cap: 2020 negotiations over binding treaty on business and human rights

"Re-cap: 2020 negotiations over binding treaty on business and human rights", 5 November 2020.

Negotiating amidst a pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic materially altered this year’s round of negotiations, impacting the form and degree of state engagement. Due to COVID-19 counter-measures, the negotiations took place in a hybrid format; there were a small number of people representing states, civil society and business physically present at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva while the majority of participants engaged in the process online through live interventions and video messages. Partly due to corona, state participation in this negotiating round was less than in previous years; many representatives were unable to travel to Geneva, online participation from the Americas and Asia was impacted by the time difference, and in-person informal discussions between parties were not possible...

Fault lines and convergence

...there appeared to be insufficient political will across the board to develop the treaty text, with several sessions running short due to little input from most states, even on key articles...

The text

...One issue that re-emerged throughout the week was that of scope: addressed in art. 3 (1) of the draft text, the instrument would apply to “all business enterprises, including but not limited to transnational corporations and other business enterprises that undertake business activities of a transnational character”. The type of companies this covers raised concerns, with some states and civil society arguing that this broad scope moves beyond the mandate set out in resolution 26/9, and should be restricted to only transnational corporations...