The NGO Aliran reports “Victory!” in describing today’s decision (11 July 2014) by the UN Human Rights Council UNHRC to start elaborating an international, legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of Transnational Corporations [TNCs] with respect to human rights. The resolution passed with twenty states in favor, fourteen mostly European states against and thirteen abstaining at the twenty-sixth session of the UN Human Rights Council. More than eighty nations and 500 organisations supported the resolution, which could bring about a legally binding treaty on businesses and human rights. Aliran continues to say that although the Council and other organs of the UN “have received abundant complaints about the actions of many TNCs outside of their home jurisdictions, the international organisation’s responses have been tragically inadequate. Existing UN human rights instruments expect TNCs to voluntarily self-regulate their human rights conduct. Needless to say, this approach has so far brought little to no reduction in human rights abuses.”
Friends of the Earth International and many other civil society organisations have campaigned for decades for binding standards (see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/binding-un-treaty-needed-for-protection-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders/) Today’s resolution establishes only a roadmap towards an international, legally-binding regime. Interesting to note that the strongest opponents of the resolution were EU states, the US and Norway. According to EU states and Norway, the longer we speak about the need for a binding treaty, the more companies are discouraged from taking voluntary action. Friends of the Earth believes the opposite: the longer we delay a binding treaty, the longer companies will continue to act with impunity, and the more environmental defenders rights are abused.