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Article d'opinion

6 Oct 2022

Martha Inés Romero, Pax Christi International

Six key points from Latin America to consider to advance the binding treaty negotiations

At a global level, humans face enormous challenges in protecting life in all its expressions and dignity amongst conflicts, economic inequalities, social injustices and the destruction of nature. The economic culture of developmentalism, as well as unrestrained production and consumption, is destroying human and non-human life.

We as states, multilateral organizations, the world’s banks, corporations, civil society organizations and the community in general must make a stop along the way, as proposed by the Pope in Laudato Si. Joining our efforts to put an end to indifference regarding the ecological crisis is our responsibility for present and future generations. Public and private corporations that extract raw materials and produce goods and services generate socio-environmental conflicts, violate rights, and perpetuate damage to ecosystems. Therefore, a binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights is an urgent and ethical demand.

In Latin America, the extractivist model uses ‘corporate capture’ – another form of corruption – as a pattern to weaken states’ institutional capacities. It favours private interests over general interests through tax reduction and increased flexibility in the application  of laws that control and remedy socio-environmental impacts throughout their value chain (extraction, production, distribution and consumption of goods and services). These private interests use their economic power to influence elections at different levels; they undermine and deny citizens’ participation and prior consultation; they stigmatize social, environmental, union, peasant, afro-descendant and Indigenous leaders, thereby putting their lives at risk; they use ‘corporate responsibility’ to buy consciences; they influence public opinion through advertorials, consequently undermining technical and scientific debate while disregarding the knowledge and customs of peasant and ancient communities; and they weaken legal systems, among others.

Pax Christi International works with communities in nine countries in Latin America to denounce business practices that affect the right to life, health, water, a healthy environment, land and property, the right not to be displaced and to a home, free speech and association, free, prior and informed consultation; access to information, participation and justice;  peoples’ free self-determination; and territorial autonomy; among others.

Pax Christi International, together with faith networks and other civil society actors, suggests the following elements for discussion in the treaty process:

  1. The voluntary United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have failed to put an end to serious human rights violations. Creating or strengthening due diligence regulations would increase efforts for their protection; yet at the same time, a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights is urgently needed to strengthen corporations’ legal accountability through a harmonious and legally binding justice system.
  2. All legislative action must seek to strengthen the Rule of Law that guarantees participatory processes, and its decisions must include binding channels to fulfil human rights.
  3. Fully inclusive approaches must be adopted that respect the territorial autonomy of ancient communities and peoples, in line with international agreements and treaties. This includes respecting, caring for and protecting the ecological and cultural heritage of their territories, assuring their territorial planning and autonomous life plans, and guaranteeing that no business activities or projects are imposed on them.
  4. Due diligence must provide tools to prevent, investigate, prosecute and remedy human rights violations by companies.
  5. Mining, oil and agribusiness companies cause socio-environmental conflicts in the region with the world’s highest rates of murders of environmental leaders. Binding laws must be urgently enforced to stop the violation of human rights and its impacts to ecosystems.
  6. Fair transitions must be immediately carried out to stop the destruction of nature and guarantee a decent life for present and future generations.

Taking stock: Reflections on the progress of the UN Binding Treaty

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