Greece referendum underlines need for democratic accountability of TNCs & banks
First session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with respect to human rights which is to undertake commenced on 6th July, 2015 in Geneva in the backdrop of referendum in Greece underling need for democratic accountability of transnational Corporations and banks.
Earlier organizations like ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) and campaigns like Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity submitted their proposals to help the UN Working Group in its task of
creating a binding treaty to establish obligations for transnational corporations to respect human rights.
Peoples’ movements and research and advocacy groups like TWA feel that this treaty is a continuation of steps initiated in the 1970s to establish mandatory Code of Conduct for transnational corporations. It
all began in May 1974 with the report “The Impact of Multinational Corporations on Development and International Relations” prepared by the UN Group of Eminent Persons.
In recent times, a UN resolution officially titled “Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with respect to Human Rights” was adopted at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council during 10th-27th June 2014. This resolution has led to the creation of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. The statement of the Permanent Mission of India in Geneva stated “The issue of transnational corporations and other business enterprises is an important area where the international community must work together to not only encourage
businesses to respect human rights but also hold them accountable for violations arising out of their business operations. The Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises, during
its three year mandate, has in the form of guidance to states and businesses shed light on the glaring gaps in protection through expanding our understanding of the guiding principles on business and human rights. However, these guiding principles have their own limitations and had little impact for the victims whose human rights have been violated by business operations of transnational corporations.”
TWA has given some suggestions including its proposal that “Open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights must adopt the
proceedings of previous UN efforts and the Draft Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations which emerged out of the report of the UN’s Eminent Persons’ and which was submitted at the special session of the UN Commission on Transnational Corporations to the UN Economic and Social Council on 31st May, 1990.” Its receipt has been acknowledged by the Secretariat of the UN Working Group.
When the resolution was put to vote for adoption by the UN Human Rights Council on 26th June, 2014, India voted in favour of the Ecuador and South Africa’s resolution which was adopted by the Council. The votes were: 20 in favour (Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, Vietnam) of the Ecuador and South Africa’s resolution, 14 against (Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France,Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea, Romania, the Former Yugoslavia, UK, USA) and 13 abstentions (Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Gabon, Kuwait, Maldives, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, UAE).
TWA appreciates Government of India’s position which has historically been demanding mandatory regulation of such business enterprises with a brief aberration of which happened during the fag end of Dr Manmohan Singh led government wherein Salman Khurshid was the External Affairs Minister. Continuing the old legacy, the current government has taken the right step to rectify the mistakes committed during a brief
period. India’s current position is an outcome of the legacy of India’s freedom struggle and its role in the Non Aligned Movement. Notably, the reference to “other business enterprises” has been included at the behest of India.
Given the fact that states are unable to enforce national laws with respect to the gross violations committed by businesses and hold them accountable due to the sheer size and clout of the transnational corporations, therefore there is a compelling need for the international community to come together to seek justice for the
victims of the violations committed by the Transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
The first session of the UN Working Group will conclude on 10th July, 2015. TWA hopes that the UN treaty will ensure that democracy isn't blackmailed by TNCs and other business enterprises.
The relevant documents include for the first session Concept note proposed under the responsibility of the designated Chair, Ambassador María Fernanda Espinosa, Permanent Republic of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva.
María is an Ecuadorian politician and diplomat. She has been Minister of National Defense of Ecuador since 28 November 2012. She held several Ministerial posts before her current position.
List of Panellists include:
- Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mme. Victoria Tauli Corpuz,
- Georges Michel Abi-Saab (Lawyer, Professor of international law- international judge)
- Chip Pitts (Lecturer in Law, Stanford University Law School)
- Richard Kozul-Wright (Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD)
- Michael Congiu (Shareholder of the law company Littler Mendelson PLC)
- Hatem Kotrane (Member of theUNCommittee ontheRightsof theChild)
- Bonita Meyersfeld (Director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies and an associate professor of law at the School of Law, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)
- Isabel Ortiz (Director of the Social Protection Department, International Labour Organization)
- Surya Deva (Associate Professor at the School of Law of City University of Hong Kong)
- Kinda Mohamedieh (Associate Researcher, Trade for Development Programme, South Centre)
- Marcos Orellana (American University Washington College of Law)
- Richard Meeran (Partner, Leigh Day & Co.)
- Tom Mackall (Group Vice President, Global Labor Relations, Sodex)
- Mrs. Karen Curtis (Chief of ILO Freedom of Association Branch)
- Gregor Thuesing (Professor, University of Bonn, Germany)
- Sanya Reid Smith (Legal advisor and senior researcher at Third World Network)
- Carlos Lopez (Head of the programme on Business and Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists)
- Katharina Rose (The International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs, ICC, Representative in Geneva)
- Carlos Correa (Special Advisor on Trade and Intellectual Property of the South Centre)
- Ms. Nabila Tbeur, Consel National des Droits de l'Homme du Maroc, on behalf of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Working Group on Business and Human Rights (ICC Working Group on Business and Human Rights
- Lene Wendland, Advisor on Business & Human Rights, OHCHR
Written contributions for the first session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights are as under:
- Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Video Message Text
- Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner
- Ambassador María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés of the Republic of Ecuador
- Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Michael Addo, Chairperson, IGWG on Business and Human Rights
- Bonita Meyersfeld, Director, Centre for Applied Legal Studies
Specialized agencies and intergovernmental organizations
- Written contribution by Center for Applied Legal Studies - A/HRC/WG.16/1/CRP/1
- Written contribution by UN Women - A/HRC/WG.16/1/CRP/2
- Written contribution by Scottish Human Rights Commission - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NI/1
- Written contribution by Make Mothers Matter - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/1
- Written contribution by Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/3
- Written contribution by Franciscans International - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/4
- Written contribution by International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/5
- Written contribution by Law Society of England and Wales - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/6
- Joint written contribution by International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Tides Center Project, International Network for Economic, Social andCultural Rights (ESCR-Net) - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/7
- Written contribution by International Federation for Human Rights Leagues - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/8
- Joint written contribution by Social Service Agency, Global Policy Forum, Geneva Infant Feeding Association, CIDSE - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/9
- Written contribution by International Service for Human Rights - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/10
- Joint written contribution by Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigenas, Grupo Intercultural and International Work Group for IndigenousAffairs - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/11
- Joint written contribution by Europe-Third World Centre and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/12 (E, F, S)
- Written contribution by Friends of the Earth International - A/HRC/WG.16/1/NGO/13
- Written contribution from International Federation for Human Rights
- Written contribution from the International Organization of Employers
- Written contribution from Freidrich Ebert Stiftung
The agenda is available in the Programme of Work