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ITF: governments should back binding UN treaty on business and human rights

12 Oct 2018
Negotiations have already taken place at UN Human Rights Council. Image credit: United Nations
The ITF, together with the other global union federations and the ITUC, is calling on governments to support a United Nations Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights, with negotiations already underway at the UN Human Rights Council.

A “zero draft” of the Treaty will be the basis for a further round of talks starting on 15 October in Geneva, Switzerland.

Stephen Cotton, ITF general secretary, said: “The time has come to adopt binding international standards to crack down on corporate impunity throughout supply chains. A binding treaty can close this major gap in international human rights law.”

The zero draft includes crucial provisions that would represent a big step forward in ensuring corporate accountability throughout global supply chains. These provisions include:

  • a requirement for businesses to adopt and apply human rights due diligence policies and procedures
  • a strong focus on access to effective, judicial recourse for victims of human rights violations
  • a basis for ‘parent-based extraterritorial jurisdiction’, which will allow workers to have access to justice in the home countries of multinational companies
  • mutual legal assistance and international cooperation between states in transnational cases.

The global trade union movement is calling for improvements to the draft, including:

  • a re-statement of the duty of businesses to respect human rights throughout their operations
  • explicit recognition that human rights standards have primacy over trade and investment agreements
  • alignment of due diligence provisions with the existing UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • the creation of a strong international enforcement mechanism beyond the frameworks that have been proposed so far for the Treaty.

The unions are also seeking to remove ambiguous language from the draft, and for the treaty to limit the use of ‘forum non conveniens’, a legal doctrine that corporations use to have cases against them heard by courts in countries where the law is weak.

You can read the global unions position paper for the negotiations here

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