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UN Working Group takes key step towards binding international treaty on Business and Human Rights

24 July 2018
After over a decade of advocacy efforts from civil society and unions, the UN Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights (OEIGWG), has made available a draft binding instrument on business and human rights.

Although the draft release is good news for campaigners, the path towards the application of a legally binding instrument remains very difficult. Major nations including the USA and many EU states, have actively worked against efforts by countries such as Ecuador to advance the debate.

The text, which will be debated in the 4th session of the Working Group, highlights many of the substantive issues discussed in previous sessions and represents a good starting point for the next phase of the debate.

However, PSI hopes that in the forthcoming discussions the consensus to retain the fundamental principles in the final text – such as the primacy of human rights obligations over trade and investment agreements, protection of all human rights recognized in international instruments, access to justice and effective remedy for the victims – will prevail. This is indispensable to achieve a real breakthrough in the fight against the violations of human rights.

In the past, PSI has highlighted the hypocrisy of wealthier countries who ensure legally binding clauses for investors in trade treaties but continue to block attempts to create legally binding human rights obligations towards multinational corporations.

Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary said:

Public workers of the world both support the countries such as Ecuador who are fearlessly pushing for the relalisation of this important treaty and condemn the cynical efforts by wealthier nations to deprive human rights defenders of this important tool to address corporate crimes.

The success and significant progress in this process for the adoption of a binding treaty on human rights also depends on the moral authority of the main supporters and promoters of the instrument. The respect and protection of fundamental labour rights and the protection of whistle-blowers are essential for PSI.

The latter is a vital element in the fight against tax evasion, the protection of civil rights, and the right to information of citizens. To bring the instrument to a successful conclusion, it is necessary that the Government of Ecuador, as a key promoter of the treaty, be a good example in respecting human rights and its international commitments.

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