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Commentary: The binding treaty needs to acknowledge trade unions as being an integral part of HRDD processes

"Ending corporate impunity is at the heart of a sustainable post-pandemic recovery – that’s why we need a strong Binding Treaty", 8 October 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic has once again exposed the fragility of global supply chains and business models built on non-standard forms of employment and informality....

The latest draft of the proposed Binding Treaty provides a strong basis for an instrument that is both politically viable and effective in addressing accountability gaps in international human rights law. Indeed, the new text has introduced further conceptual clarity, alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and a more coherent structure.

Unions welcome, among other things, the strengthening of the gender dimension throughout the text, which will help ensure that states effectively discharge their obligations to protect and fulfil women’s, including women workers’, human rights in the context of business activities.

While HRDD rightly takes centre stage in the revised article on preventive measures, it is encouraging to see that the duty to prevent adverse human rights impacts does not stop at due diligence...Another significant improvement is the inclusion of a provision that explicitly requires states to ensure that any existing or new trade and investment agreements are compatible with the human rights obligations under the Binding Treaty...

While the latest draft captures many trade union demands, there are still significant improvements that can be made to the text...In particular, we would like to see trade unionists explicitly recognised as human rights defenders and trade unions acknowledged as being an integral part of HRDD processes...We firmly believe that the requirement to practice human rights due diligence and the requirement to remedy any harm resulting from human rights violations should be treated as separate and complementary obligations. In terms of enforcement, the framework envisaged in the latest draft continues to fall well below our expectations. It is imperative that the Binding Treaty is supported by a complementary international mechanism to oversee compliance...

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