The business community is firmly committed to respecting human rights across the world in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). It is actively engaged in many initiatives that promote implementation of the UNGPs and similar Government-backed standards, including the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO MNE Declaration. It also carries out numerous activities to support business to make a positive contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the international, regional, national and local level.
The following organisations – the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), Business at OECD (BIAC), Business Europe and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – which collectively represent millions of companies around the world, have actively participated in and closely followed the work of the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises (IGWG) since its inception in 2014.
This document provides their joint response to the Zero Draft Legally Binding Instrument to Regulate, in International Human Rights Law, the Activities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises (“Zero Draft Treaty”) and the Draft Optional Protocol to the Legally Binding Instrument (“Draft Optional Protocol”). These texts were released by the Chair of the IGWG – the Government of Ecuador – for States to negotiate on at the IGWG’s fourth session (15-19 October 2018) and its fifth session scheduled for 2019.
The Zero Draft Treaty and the Draft Optional Protocol raise issues of significant and genuine concern to the international and regional business community and they do not provide a sound basis for a possible future standard on business and human rights. Both texts incorporate inconsistent provisions that would greatly undermine countries’ development opportunities and they would create a lopsided global governance system that would result in significant gaps in human rights protection. Taken as a whole, the legal regime that the Zero Draft Treaty and Draft Optional Protocol would create is legally imprecise; divergent with established standards and laws; incompatible with the aim of promoting inclusive economic growth and investment; at risk of enabling politically-motivated prosecutions; and – crucially – not capable of serving all victims of human rights abuses.
Furthermore, the business community is profoundly concerned with the process that has led to the release of a Zero Draft Treaty and a Draft Optional Protocol. It has repeatedly stressed that it wishes to contribute meaningfully to the business and human rights debate. However, it is concerned that no real effort has been made to ensure a robust, transparent and open process that fully draws on the expertise and experience of all stakeholders. The way in which the UNGPs were developed highlights the overarching value of meaningful private sector engagement. The business community encourages all participants in the IGWG to enhance dialogue with business in tackling such complex human rights issues.