Upcoming negotiations for a UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights provide a critical opportunity for governments and business to demonstrate their commitment to responsible corporate conduct.
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Global Support for Binding Rules On Corporate Supply Chains
About 94 percent of workers producing goods and providing services for the largest multinationals are not directly employed by these global firms.
Research & Commentary
January 04, 2018
People all over the world understand that you’ll never get multinationals to put an end to the abuse of workers in supply chains without new international rules. People also know that those rules need to have teeth to make them effective. So why are workers in supply chains still lacking this protection?
This makes them immune from legal accountability, as there is often no legal cause for action when violations occur in supplying companies.
71 percent of the global population favors rules that would stop big business from outsourcing its responsibilities through supply chains that they are often unable or unwilling to identify.
2017 International Trade Union Confederation Global Poll
The international trade union movement has been pushing the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations (UN) to adopt binding international standards to crack down on corporate impunity throughout supply chains.
As a result, the 2016 International Labour Conference called on the ILO to consider developing policy guidance and standard-setting in order to tackle the lack of decent work in supply chains.
In June 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 26/9 establishing an intergovernmental working group. Its task is to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
The working group met for a third time this October to discuss elements for a draft legally binding instrument.
Despite these promising developments and the overwhelming support of citizens globally, the opposition to tackling the legal obstacles preventing corporate accountability remains massive.
Unsurprisingly, business is strongly opposed to binding rules, which would ensure that their actions no longer fall through the legal cracks.
Ironically, they argue that the adoption of binding international instruments would undermine existing non-binding frameworks, such as the UN Guiding Principles. Leading academic and chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Surya Deva, has described this argument as a “false dichotomy.”
Indeed, while it is important that a future binding instrument builds on and complements existing standards, including the UN Guiding Principles, there is absolutely no contradiction in supporting binding instruments as well as guidance on the practical implementation of existing standards.
These instruments have the same objective: Ensuring that businesses respect their human rights obligations. Business must therefore stop hiding behind its alleged concern for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles.
The status quo is not acceptable for the millions of workers who suffer daily abuse and effectively have no access to justice.
That’s why governments must take action now to implement the UN Guiding Principles in their national contexts and support the process for the adoption of a binding treaty proposed by the chair of the intergovernmental working group in its last session.
In 2018, we expect to see a zero-draft text of treaty with substantive inputs from all governments throughout the consultation process.
The trade unions will call for the following elements to be included in the draft text:
- Coverage of international human rights law, including international labor standards.
- State obligation to adopt regulatory measures to:
- Require businesses to adopt and apply human rights due diligence policies and procedures;
- Ensure access to effective judicial recourse for victims of human rights violations; and
- Provide for parent-based extraterritorial jurisdiction.
- Business obligation to respect human rights throughout their operations.
- Strong international enforcement mechanism.
The time has come to close this major gap in international human rights law and to end the impunity for corporate human rights abuses. As the ITUC Global Poll shows, a chastened world has gotten wise to the excuses of multinationals and wants action.
Originally published by Equal Times.
Makbule Sahan is the acting head of the International Trade Union Confederation’s Legal Department. Ruwan Subasinghe is Legal Advisor to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). @RuwanSubasinghe