Environmental activists and human rights defenders are pressuring the U.N. to adopt binding rules to prevent transnational corporations from violating human rights and to ensure access to justice for victims of corporate abuses.
Organizations and activists participating in the People’s Mobilization at the first session of the U.N. Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and human rights, taking place July 6-10 in Geneva, are calling for a legally binding treaty to replace voluntary guidelines and hold corporations accountable worldwide.
“A binding treaty is urgently needed to provide global remedy for victims and restoration of livelihoods and ecosystems damaged by transnational corporations,” said Friends of the Earth’s Economic Justice International Program Coordinator Lucia Ortiz in a statement. “We also need it to hold corporations and their directors legally liable and criminally responsible for their human rights violations.”
According to campaigners, the current system of voluntary guidelines for corporations on human rights is inadequate, allowing companies to enjoy impunity for privileging their own profits above human and environmental rights.
Corporate lobbying, financing political parties and electoral campaigns, bribery and negotiating with repressive governments, and even promoting coups are just some of the strategies transnational corporations use to maintain a climate of impunity for human rights abuses at home and abroad, according to the global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power.
The movement of social organizations, human rights groups, social movements, and affected communities calling for an international human rights framework for transnational corporations also says that impending global trade deals like TTP and TTIP, set to further consolidate corporate power, makes the need for such a binding treaty clearer than ever.
“There is a great asymmetry between the protection of the interests of transnational corporations and the fragility of human rights.”
The European Union has been resistant to joining the dialogue over developing a binding treaty. But many other countries from various regions, including Ecuador, South Africa, Indonesia, India, and China, as well as hundreds of organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Council are supportive backers of the treaty.
The Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and human rights was established through the U.N. Human Right Council in June 2014 with the task of elaborating an internationally binding framework to regulate corporations with respect to international human rights law.
“This meeting could be a milestone for legally binding rules for transnational corporations and towards an end to their current impunity if U.N. member states show clear political will,” said Friends of the Earth’s Ortiz. “Corporate crimes should not be left unpunished.”