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An international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises on the anvil?

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, December 04, 2014 | 2:24 AM

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) raised the issue of accountability of transnational corporations (TNCs) and Bhopal disaster at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva (Dec 1-3, 2014). It asked the chairperson of UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights as to what would he do with the testimony it is taking on behalf of the victims of Bhopal to make Union Carbide Corporation and Dow Chemicals Company accountable. It demanded revival of the UN Commission on TNCs if the UN Guiding Principles are indeed binding. TWA seeks a binding UN treaty to regulate corporations. 

Prior to this TWA briefed the MPs of European Parliament on why a binding UN treaty for regulating corporations is necessary in Strasbourg, France. TWA as a member of Stop TNCs Impunity Campaign gave its expert advice to the European Parliament in this regard.

The core issue which was discussed was the legal means of ending TNC's impunity. TWA interacted with the Ecuador's senior foreign officer (on Chevron and Bhopal case) and India's Second Secretary in Geneva.    

Earlier, TWA wrote to the Chairman, Rajya Sabha and Speaker, Lok Sabha underlining Parliament’s role in the implementation of June 2014 UN resolution on “Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights”. It drew their  attention towards a conference of the European Parliament on the role of European Parliament in the implementation of June 2014 UN resolution on “Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights”. 

India has played key role in the initiatives like mandatory Code of Conduct for TNCs.

Government of India supported the UN draft treaty on human rights violation by multinationals on June 26-27, 2014.  It is officially entitled “Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights” (A/HRC/26/L.22). The resolution was adopted on 26 June at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). 

Prior to this TWA had written a letter to the Prime Minister of India on May 21, 20114 urging him to support the proposed resolution to regulate corporations.The letter submitted: “It is indeed a sad commentary on the state of affairs in India that … Government did not express its support for the Ecuadorian declaration regarding "Transnational Corporations and Human Rights" before the UN Human Rights Council session in September 2013. This action of the Ecuadorian government has been ratified in Geneva at the 2nd Forum on Business and Human Rights on 3-4 December 2013. The declaration has received wide support from UN member-countries, such as the African Group, the Arabic Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru. Although India used to be at the forefront of initiatives like Code of Conduct for TNCs, its silence with regard to September 2013 declaration is inconsistent with India's past stance on the issue and is contrary to the interest of present and future generation of Indians.”It further argued, “In view of its significance, one of the first few tasks the new government must to do is to publicly endorse the declaration ahead of the 26th Human Rights Council Session scheduled to be held in Geneva from 10 to 26 of June 2014 to discuss a proposed legally binding international instrument on business and human rights to be included within the UN system.  

Voluntary and self regulatory frameworks have failed consistently to regulate corporations. There is an urgent need for a legally binding treaty is adopted to regulate admittedly undemocratic organisations like corporations which have become bigger and more powerful than democratic governments.” India’s Union Ministry of External Affairs changed its stance for the better. Subsequen
tly, Dilip Sinha played the role as Vice-President of the HRC in getting this resolution passed. TWA learnt from Gloria Gangte, Counsellor (Political) who shared India’s statement at the 26th session of the Human Rights Council by Permanent Mission of India, Geneva that facilitated the adoption of the resolution possible. Sinha has retired since then and B N Reddy has                                  

In view of the above and Indian legislature's consistent stand with regard to regulation of TNCs, our Parliament should also consider its role in the implementation of June 2014 UN resolution on “Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights” and act accordingly to make both national and transnational corporations subservient to legislative and democratic will besides ensuring that domestic legislations are consistent with India's stance at the UN fora.
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