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Commentary: Binding treaty on business & human rights could provide remedy to victims & clarify companies’ obligations

"Would a Global Business and Human Rights Treaty Work?", 14 jun 2017

Since the 1970s, the UN has been working to create a regulatory framework that ensures businesses are not acting without regard for the impact of their operations on human rights…

In 2013, Ecuador, backed by a number of governments and over 100 NGOs, submitted a declaration to the Human Rights Council proposing the creation of a more robust and legally binding framework to hold businesses to account. This led to the creation of an Intergovernmental Working Group to do just that.

There has been skepticism as to whether a legally binding treaty is the right approach…

International treaties are only effective if they are agreed and ratified by the States involved, but this has been difficult to achieve in this area…Thus, despite headway made by the Working Group, it is difficult to expect that a treaty will be agreed without the backing of the UK, US and EU.

…The obstacles to passing the treaty do not mean that it wouldn’t be beneficial to all players involved. This is especially true if the treaty were created through open consultation inviting participation from business, government and NGOs…A legal framework could provide remedy to victims and give corporations clarity as to their obligations. Businesses could then manage their risk more effectively, and avoid scandal and reputational damage…