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First session of UN’s group tasked to draft treaty for TNCs’ regulations underway

Written By mediavigil on Wednesday, July 08, 2015 | 3:07 AM

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.

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: 

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:

Specialized agencies and intergovernmental organizations
ECOSOC-accredited organizations
The agenda is available in the Programme of Work

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 9818089660 (Delhi), E-mail: 1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswtach.org
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