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19 Oct 2023

Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte (German Institute for Human Rights)

Updated UN treaty draft on business and human rights presents both prospects and challenges, says German Institute for Human Rights

"Business and human rights: latest UN treaty draft harbours opportunities and risks", 17 Oct 2023

Since 31 July 2023, a revised draft of a binding human rights...instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises has been available. With the new draft, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Working Group negotiating the agreement takes a substantial step towards the states of the Global North and addresses their demands.

For example, the current draft builds even more strongly than previous drafts on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights - the internationally agreed framework in the field of business and human rights. In addition, the draft has been significantly streamlined. Many formulations have a higher degree of clarity and are thus more legally sound. At the same time, the draft grants states parties greater flexibility in several places - this facilitates acceptance and promotes implementability.

The EU and its member states should not let this offer pass by and clearly communicate to the Chair that an EU negotiating mandate is concretely planned and will follow the adoption of the EU-wide supply chain directive CSDDD. This is because these concessions to countries in the Global North come at a price and in some places go too far: in some cases they go hand in hand with considerable reductions in the level of protection for rights-holders. These reductions – some of them below the level of the German Supply Chain Act and its planned European counterpart - are not in the European interest and should not be accepted without further ado.

This applies, among other things, to the deletion of many references to the environment and climate and to the weakening of the risk-based approach as well as appropriate remedial provisions and the consideration of the perspective of affected rights-holders in corporate due diligence. The material scope of application is also no longer clearly regulated. In addition, the current draft falls short of previous drafts in some areas with regard to access to justice...