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26 Jun 2014

UN Human Rights Council adopts two resolutions on business & human rights - includes our analysis of recent developments

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"High tide in Lake Geneva" - our analysis of recent developments  

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[DOC] Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights
Ecuador & So. Africa's resolution adopted by UN Human Rights Council on 26 June 2014 
Signed by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, South Africa, Venezuela 

[DOC] Human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
Norway's resolution adopted by UN Human Rights Council on 27 June 2014 
Signed by Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Colombia, France, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Serbia,the former Yugoslavia, Turkey [annoucement of adoption:] Resolution «Human Rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises» adopted in the Human Rights Council Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva, 27 June 2014

Dispatches: A Treaty to End Corporate Abuses?, Arvind Ganesan, Human Rights Watch, 1 July 2014 

UN Business & Human Rights Framework: Engaging new action at national and international level to stop abuses, CIDSE, 30 June 2014

[PDF] Statement of the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group, 26 June 2014 

Ireland Reiterates Commitment to Business and Human Rights, Votes Against Resolution on Binding Standards
Shane Darcy (Irish Centre for Human Rights), on Business & Human Rights in Ireland, 27 June 2014

Consensus on Business and Human Rights Is Broken With the Adoption of the Ecuador Initiative
International Organisation of Employers (IOE), 26 June 2014

Huge Group Demand Binding Standards at “Stop Corporate Crimes and Impunity” Picket and Impunity Tour
Nora Mardirossian, Treaty Alliance, 26 June 2014

Friends of the Earth Europe calls on EU to stop sabotaging UN action against corporate human rights abuses
Treaty Alliance, 25 June 2014

Radio interview on the call for a binding treaty with Ana Maria Suarez Franco from FIAN International
Treaty Alliance, 25 June 2014

CSOs urge PH government to push for HR binding treaty in Geneva
Jaybee Garganera, ATM , 24 June 2014

Decisive 24 Hours: Treaty Alliance Organizations in Geneva Hope for Sincere Attempts to Combine Resolutions
Nora Mardirossian, Treaty Alliance, 25 June 2014

[PDF] Support at the U.N. Human Rights Council for a Resolution to Begin a Process for Establishing a Treaty on the Issue of Business and Human Rights
Okereke Chinwike (African Law Foundation), Legborsi Saro Pyagara (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People), Nelson Nnanna Nwafor (Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development), 23 June 2014


At the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, two resolutions were tabled for adoption by the Council.  The first is a resolution drafted by Ecuador and South Africa and signed also by Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. It was originally tabled on 19 June, then updated on 24 June. It directs "to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights."  The other is a resolution drafted by Norway and supported by 22 other countries from all regions. It was originally tabled on 12 June, then updated on 17 and 23 June.  It includes a request that the UN Working Group prepare a report considering, among other things, the benefits and limitations of legally binding instruments.

On 26 June, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Ecuador and South Africa’s resolution. The votes were: 20 in favour (Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, Vietnam), 14 against (Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea, Romania, the Former Yugoslavia, UK, USA) and 13 abstentions (Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Gabon, Kuwait, Maldives, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, UAE). On 27 June, the Council adopted by consensus Norway's resolution.

Human Rights Watch said: "There need to be stronger human rights rules for business, but the UN’s decision to move ahead with the development of an international treaty that only covers transnational corporations is compromised by the opposition of key governments and its narrow mandate. The UN’s decision is too narrow since it only focuses on transnational corporations and will not address national or other businesses that should also be required to respect human rights." ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group released a statement calling on governments at the Human Rights Council to ensure that all business enterprises, not just transnational corporations, are the subject of new normative international developments.

The International Organisation of Employers said in a statement that it "deeply regrets" that the adoption of the Ecuador resolution has broken the unanimous consensus on business and human rights achieved three years ago with the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles; that the vote is a "genuine setback" to the efforts underway to improve human rights and access to remedy on the ground; and that the Human Rights Council has decided to return to "approaches which have failed in the past and which are diametrically opposed to the goal of quickly advancing the implementation" of the Guiding Principles.

Click on the Big Issue: Binding treaty: Pros and cons for more materials.