Negotiations on a UN Treaty on TNCs taking shape despite reservations about EU’s commitment

As stakeholders continue with the fourth informal negotiations on a UN treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises in relation to human rights at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, activists continue to call on the European Union to start supporting the process.

Civil society support for a legally binding treaty to regulate transnational corporations is growing, particularly in the Global South. According to activists, rather than engaging with the United Nations treaty negotiations, the European Union is delaying and derailing the process. Activists are punching holes in the EU’s claim that it is committed to protecting human rights and those that defend them, when it is attempting to shut down this historical process.

Position of Friends of the Earth International

According to Friends of the Earth International, the key elements to make the new legally binding instrument effective include obligations for transnational corporations to respect human rights, corporate liability in case of violations, transparency in supply chains to pierce the corporate veil that allows companies to avoid responsibility, and an international human rights court that affected people can turn to if their national courts fail to provide access to justice.

     “Organizations and social movements around the world are demanding justice and an end to the impunity of transnational corporations that are responsible for the systematic violation of peoples’ rights. We are calling for the adoption of a legally binding Treaty that establishes direct legal responsibility for transnational corporations and their managers throughout the production chain. We can only guarantee access to justice for those affected with an effective implementation mechanism. The Treaty must prioritize human rights over free trade agreements and investments”, Ms. Karin Nansen, the chair of Friends of the Earth International explained during a press conference at the UN Square in Geneva Switzerland.

Friends of the Earth International argue that the Zero Draft must establish the primacy of human rights over trade agreements, provide paths for reparations for affected communities, and protect defenders of territories from future abuses which they contend require regulations to prevent international financial institutions from acting with impunity when financing destructive projects or supporting policies that undermine people’s rights to public services.

In 2015 a United Nations intergovernmental working group began work on a treaty to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Calls for a legal mechanism to prevent corporate human rights abuses and attacks on democratically-elected governments have been repeated since Salvador Allende’s remarkable 1972 speech to the UN General Assembly. Corporate crimes against the environment and peoples' rights have continued unabated since then, while violence against defenders of territories and collective rights have reached alarming levels and activists believe companies are rarely held to account.

Many countries have been developing concrete proposals regarding the content and implementation of a binding treaty to close gaps in international human rights law and improve affected peoples' access to justice. This includes national legislation within European states establishing legal obligations for transnational corporations to prevent human rights abuses and environmental damages along their whole supply chains.

WE ARE WITH YOU: Members of Friends of the Earth International standing in solidarity with the people of Lancashire at the UN Human Rights  Council in Geneva Switzerland in October this year.

Suspicious conduct of the EU and FoEI stand

EU representatives failed to show up to opening negotiations at the UN in 2015, and only engaged in 2016 and 2017 after pressure from civil society organizations. During the most recent informal consultations, in May and June, the EU continued to show what activists say was an impediment to the negotiations by calling for a new resolution to reduce the working group's mandate. The activist argue that if the EU’s demand is heeded to, it would mean the reversal of four years of progress, and give the EU a chance to change the scope of the treaty, or water it down to a mere amendment of the voluntary Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

 “All the voluntary mechanisms in the world will not secure the lives of defenders of territories from systemic threats and attacks by corporations on the environment, livelihoods, and people’s rights. It would be an historical failure for universal human rights law if, after more than 45 years of fighting for accountability of transnational corporations, the UN working group, with Ecuador as chair supported by more than 100 UN member states, yielded to the EU’s obstructive tactics”, read a statement on the Friends of the Earth International website.

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is an international network of environmental organizations in 74 countries.  FoEI currently has a secretariat based in Amsterdam, Netherlands which provides support for the network and its agreed major campaigns. Natioanal Association of Professinal Environmentalists, NAPE and Community Green Radio are members of the FoEI.

Compiled by Julius Kyamanywa (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Annual Global Campaign week kicks off with a huge procession in Geneva, Switzerland

This year’s annual Global Campaign week was launched on Sunday 13th October 2018 at the UN square in Geneva, Switzerland with a huge procession in the European city.

The launch of the campaign, also known as the Week of Peoples Mobilization, was attended by representatives of the Global Inter-Parliamentary network, affected communities, movements, trade unions and other networks and organizations. The campaign will run up to 20th.October 2018.

Friends of the Earth International groups across six continents are mobilizing to highlight the climate emergency, fight dirty energy and false solutions and to call for a people-led transformation of our energy system.

WE ARE HERE: Thousands of activists who participated in the launch of the global campaign week in Geneva on October 13 match through the city.

The actions of the activists coincide with the launch of the IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.

“We only have a few years left to prevent runaway climate change. We must act together to fight this climate emergency. People Power will enable us to demand much-needed system change”, note FOEI on their official website.

National Association of Professional Environmentalists, Nape’s David Kureeba says dirty energy is a fight everyone in the world should embrace.

“Together we can make this work so easily. Our first target should be those that facilitate and promote dirty energy”, explains Mr. Kureeba.

Kureeba is the Coordinator Friends of the Earth, Africa.

IN SOLIDARITY: FOEI members when they visisted Butimba Sustainability Village in Hoima District Western Uganda in 2014

NAPE and Friends of the Earth Uganda are being represented at the Global Campaign week by Community Green radio Station Manager, Julius Kyamanywa.

The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign) is a network of over 200 social movements, networks, organizations and affected communities resisting the land grabs, extractive mining, exploitative wages and environmental destruction of transnational corporations (TNCs) in different global regions, particularly Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Campaign is a people’s global structural response to unaccountable corporate power. It provides facilitation for dialogue, strategizing, exchanging information and experiences and acts as a space to make resistance visible and deepen solidarity and support for struggles against TNCs.

At the same time the Campaign proposes an International Peoples Treaty which provides a political framework to support the local, national and international movements and communities in their resistances and practices of alternatives to corporate power and the TNC model of the economy. It also participates in the campaign for UN Binding Treaty to regulate TNCs, stop human rights violations, end impunity and ensure access to justice for affected communities.

The Week of Peoples Mobilization in Geneva (13 – 20 October 2018), also coincides with the 4th Session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group mandated to develop a UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises with respect to Human Rights (OEIGWG).

Story Compiled by Julius Kyamanywa in Geneva