Towards an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights

29.10.2015

The first session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights chaired by Ecuador was held in June this year. Its creation and the process towards a binding instrument is an historic opportunity to close a gap in international human rights framework on this issue.

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By H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva

On 26 June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution A/HRC/RES/26/9, ‘Elaboration of an International Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights’. In order to comply with the mandate contained in the Resolution, an open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG or IGWG) was established. The first session took place from 6 to 10 July in Geneva, Chaired by Ecuador and attended by States representatives, international and non-governmental organizations, civil society, academy, private sector and other relevant stakeholders who had a first approach to the different components that could integrate a future binding instrument.

The topic under discussion has more than forty years of history. During this period, several initiatives intended to set norms of universal observance for transnational corporations, having achieved at most voluntary measures, the effects of which have been limited or inexistent, as demonstrated by case studies, especially when trying to provide victims of human rights violations related to transnational corporations and other business enterprises with access to justice and remedies.

From this perspective, various States and other actors have described the creation of the OEIGWG, and the process towards a binding instrument, as an historic opportunity to close a gap in international human rights framework. We must recognize the role played by civil society and human rights defenders in achieving this task, which have contributed significantly to both positioning the subject and also for the substantive discussion. Notwithstanding, it should be mentioned that numerous challenges remain, including the constructive engagement of several countries that have so far chosen not to get involved in the process.

With a view to the upcoming sessions, OEIGWG's Ecuadorian Chair invites States to address multilaterally all aspects that generate dispute through an inclusive, transparent and democratic debate. The Chair also invokes the statement by the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, to the UN General Assembly last September 28, calling upon States to actively participate in drafting a binding treaty to regulate transnational corporations when they violate human rights or threat nature. Far from affecting business or investments, this initiative aims to strengthen the international system of human rights and to contribute to achieving better living conditions for societies worldwide.

Ambassador María Fernanda Espinosa, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva

 

In the weeks and days leading up to the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, ISHR will publish a series of articles by leading experts including human rights defenders, UN representatives, diplomats, businesses and international NGOs. Each article will include an analysis of the important role of human rights defenders and will be compiled in a special edition of ISHR’s Human Rights Monitor, to be launched in English, French and Spanish on November 9. The views expressed in the pieces are personal and do not necessarily represent the position of ISHR.

Category:

Topic
  • Corporate accountability
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • UN Human Rights Council
Country
  • Ecuador