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23 Jul 2018

Carlos Lopez, Senior Legal Advisor at the International Commission of Jurists via Opinio Juris

Towards an International Convention on Business and Human Rights (Part I)

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The first draft of one of the most important international human rights treaties of recent years, and instrument addressing on business and human rights has just been released in Geneva by Ecuador’s Ambassador acting as Chair of the process.  The “zero draft” strongly focuses on the key issue of access to justice and remedy for those who allege harm by a business enterprise...At the moment...business human rights obligations are only recognized as such in the preamble...Although the proposed treaty would create obligations only for States to take legislative and other measures to make business legally accountable and for victims to have access to remedy, the State role and the need of legal accountability and remedies also in the context of State commercial activity is generally overlooked...Regrettably the draft treaty pays scant attention to the role of the State and the need for accountability and remedy in that context...

...[T]he draft fails to provide clarity on what rights are to be covered under the treaty...[T]he zero draft addresses only the conduct of transnational corporations and other business enterprises that have “transnational activities”.  Actions or omissions by businesses acting only within domestic jurisdictions are omitted...Under the current scope and definitions only criminal conduct...that occurs in more than jurisdiction may be punishable...[T]he draft treaty, while clearly deficient here, will reassure those concerned that the operations of transnational corporations may not be properly addressed if they were to be embedded within broad and vague norms...

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Experts reflect on the Zero Draft of the legally binding treaty on business and human rights

Commentary: UN Draft Treaty on business & human rights needs further clarifications to guarantee legal accountability of corporations and effective remedies