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Article

25 Oct 2021

Author:
European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ)

UN treaty negotiations kick off with an appeal to member states: engage constructively

... The third draft of the treaty has been welcomed by most participating states. It now includes a reference to ILO Convention 190 in the preamble; a clearer definition of ‘victim’; a corporate obligation to prevent; and a state duty to provide access to remedy and justice. It also explicitly applies to all commercial activity, including transnational. Special reference is made to the need to overcome obstacles faced by women and other vulnerable groups. While some fundamental aspects still require scrutiny and input, the meaningful participation of member states will be the key to its success...

After seven years of largely ignoring the UN intergovernmental process, the United States is attending this year’s session to call on member states to participate in an as yet undefined alternative process. 

It struck a contradictory tone, arguing that it “wants to collaborate to find a path forward” but is also taking a step back to explore alternative instruments, binding and non-binding. Given its opposition to the current text, the delegation proposed a framework agreement as a way forward... 

The participation of the EU as a block stuck to its familiar unconstructive script: while it “believes in the potential of an international process,” the draft treaty must also be “implementable”.

Although the delegation noted that corporate abuses remain rampant globally –  and committed to strong legislative action with its draft law on sustainable corporate governance expected later this year – the EU missed another opportunity to use its leverage to build support for the process. 

Instead, it insisted on the lack of consensus in the room, failing to acknowledge the momentum of a large committed group of UN member states and civil society to the current process. The EU’s invitation to explore more “consensus-based” ideas echoed the position of the US and that of other dissenters...

Given the striking similarities between the interventions of the US and the International Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in the US, concerns corporate capture of the UN negotiations are being raised.

Similarly, the International Organization of Employers considers that the treaty “is not an appropriate tool to address the challenges at stake”. Together with BusinessEurope, one of Brussels’ biggest and most influential lobby groups, it proposed to replace the current draft with a new framework convention, which “has been discussed on the sidelines of this negotiation”...

A large group of Global South member states, including South Africa, Cuba, Venezuela, Namibia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, India and Palestine, continued to throw their weight behind the process. Their message was loud and clear: the current text is a good basis for negotiation. The Network of National Human Rights Institutions also adopted this position...

Article-by-article negotiations began with the draft preamble. Proposals to improve it included a more progressive definition of non-discrimination, as well as a point about the role of human rights defenders and a reference to the Rio Declaration...

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