Debate the treaty

INTRODUCTION

Negotiations to develop a treaty on business & human rights kicked off on the 6th July with the first meeting of the UN Human Rights Council’s Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIWG). The treaty evokes strong emotions across the business & human rights movement.  Those in favour often express their desire for harder law, by speaking of their frustrations at the UN Guiding Principles and voluntary initiatives.  While advocates of the Guiding Principles retort that they have only been around three years – a blink in the eye of most UN agreements.

How can the treaty deliver for all stakeholders? How could it complement the Guiding Principles and other initiatives? What should the content and scope of the treaty be?

"Ready, Steady, Debate!" -- Treaty Talks Begin at UN
The right treaty can benefit everyone and cohere with the Guiding Principles; to get there, we need a broad open debate.

Chip Pitts, Lecturer in Law, Stanford and Oxford

 

BUSINESS & HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

If there is to be any hope of further international legalization in the business and human rights domain, civil society needs to help by advancing workable proposals that states cannot ignore or dismiss out of hand.

John G. Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights - Read more

 

The treaty process must be used strategically – at all levels - as an opportunity to trigger change.

Geneviève Paul, Head of Globalisation & Human Rights, Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH) - Read more

 

The most obvious place for the movement to start would be to press the members of the IGWiG to focus on remedy, in particular remedies provided by states.

Mark Taylor, Research Director, Rights and Security, at the Fafo Research Foundation (for Institute for Human Rights and Business) - Read more

 

An effort at complementarity is more useful to embedding human rights in business than a competition between harder and softer law strategies.

Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - Read more

 

NEGOTIATIONS

 

 

NGO engagement in previous treaty-drafting negotiations provide models of successful strategies advocates can learn from.

Irene Pietropaoli, Consultant on business and human rights, based in Myanmar - Read More

 

 

Treaty provisions regulating the collection and dissemination of information could be beneficial for business, investors, consumers and affected communities.

Erika George, Professor of Law, University of Utah College of Law - Read More

 

We are hoping that they listen to the thousands of people who want to see their government make the most of this opportunity to provide genuine protection for the victims of human rights abuses committed by multinational corporations.

Aisha Dodwell, Campaigns and policy officer, Global Justice Now - Read More

 

It is necessary to continue with a plurality of initiatives in order to enhance victims’ access to remedies

Jernej Letnar Černič, Assistant Professor of Law, Graduate School of Government and European Studies, Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia - Read More

 

There is a clear distinction between those states establishing rules and incentives for business to respect human rights, and those that show little political will in this regard.

Harriet E. Berg, Minister Counsellor, Norwegian mission to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva - Read More

 

The challenge for treaty campaigners is to come up with an ambitious yet achievable proposal and identify home States that are prepared to support it.

Marilyn Croser, Director of the CORE Coalition - Read more

 

The first session of the intergovernmental body was a good start, but the level of participation and debates needs to improve if it is going to reach the finishing line.

Carlos Lopez, Senior Legal Adviser at the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) - Read more

 

NGOs need to push governments to show leadership in the treaty process.

Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - Read more

 

If the treaty drafting process is to be credible, diplomatic and NGO efforts in the coming year, beginning without delay, are vital.

Doug Cassel, Professor of Law, Notre dame law School - Read more

 

PARTICIPATION

In an unequal world, access to rights is also unequal. A binding treaty for human rights and businesses must consider victims' voices.

Tchenna Maso, Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento de Atingidos por Barragens) - Read more 

 

 

The treaty should reaffirm the need for states and businesses to protect and engage with defenders. For this to happen, human rights defenders’ voices must be heard loud and clear by the IGWG.

Ben Leather, Advocacy & Communications Manager, International Service for Human Rights - Read more

 

This treaty needs to reassert a clear distinction between those who should regulate and those who must be regulated.

Kate Lappin, co-authored with Haley Pedersen & Tessa Khan, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) - Read more

 

As the work around proposed a business and human rights treaty inches forward, we need strong measures in place to check industry interference right from the very beginning.

Bobby Ramakant, writer for Citizen News Service & WHO World No Tobacco Day Awardee 2008 - Read more

 

Policy makers, academics and corporate executives…[should] spend some time with the affected communities to experience their sufferings. In short, let the contours of the treaty be shaped by victims’ regulatory needs.

Surya Deva, Associate Professor, School of Law, City University of Hong Kong - Read more

 

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY

Including corporate criminal liability for international crimes in the treaty is necessary but insufficient in itself if we want to maximise the impact of the treaty and call it a success.

Dr Nadia Bernaz, Middlesex University School of Law - Read More

 

If neither voluntary standards nor State obligations ensure the protection of victims, something is missing. That void can be filled by international corporate obligations.

Nicolás Carrillo-Santarelli, Associate Professor of International Law, La Sabana University (Colombia) - Read more

 

The most effective way to encourage respect for human rights and to enhance remedies for human rights violations is for host states to have robust human rights protection mechanisms.

Linda Kromjong, Secretary General, International Organisation of Employers (IOE) - Read more

 

A treaty could force States to do what they will otherwise not do unilaterally; place an express duty of care on parent companies and reverse the burden of proof.

Gabriela Quijano, Business & Human Rights Legal Adviser, Amnesty International - Read more

 

We are not ready for a business and human rights treaty and the efforts to create one are misdirected...The council should develop clear rules to prohibit corporate conduct that falls below this level.

Daniel Bradlow, SARCHI Professor of Intl. Development Law and African Economic Relations, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria - Read more

 

ACCESS TO REMEDY

A binding international treaty that imposes human rights obligations on businesses would be a monumental step towards protecting peaceful assembly and association rights.

Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly & association - Read more

 

A two-tiered system where one segment is required to respect human rights and another segment is not…could leave potential victims without access to remedies.  This contradicts a stated purpose of the treaty effort.

Tom Mackall, Vice President, Global Labour Relations, Sodexo - Read more