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Commentary: Binding Treaty on Business & Human Rights and Corporate Impunity

Author: Hanz Wetzels, IPS news, Published on: 29 April 2019

"A Treaty to End Corporate Immunity?", 25 Apr 2019

When Ecuadorean diplomat Luis Gallegos first proposed a “Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights,” many countries and environmental activists welcomed the idea with open arms.

Backed by South Africa, Mr. Gallegos urged the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, to immediately begin negotiations to end human rights violations and environmental damage by transnational corporations.

In October 2018, 94 countries drew up a draft text for the binding treaty, which could address the issue of the complex global supply chain that currently makes it difficult to determine who is responsible for environmental damage or human rights violations. It should also give victims access to justice.

For two decades, Mr. Gallegos’s birth place of Ecuador waged a court battle to hold Chevron (formerly Texaco), a US-based multinational, accountable for oil spills and for allegedly dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic waste into waterways and open pits in the country’s Amazon jungle, affecting 30,000 indigenous people and campesinos in the area. The South American country tried without success to seek redress in American, Ecuadorian, Brazilian and Canadian courts.

130 oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger Delta in 2015 were reported by Amnesty International...

Chevron in turn dragged Ecuador before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, for violating a 1997 bilateral investment treaty, and was awarded a hefty $112 million. A binding treaty on environmental damage might have prevented this kind of outcome... 

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Related companies: Chevron Royal Dutch / Shell (see Shell) Shell Texaco (part of Chevron)