ICJ oral statement on the start of negotiations on the future legally binding instrument on business and human rights

A week of negotiations started at the United Nations in Geneva yesterday to enhance the international legal framework to regulate business enterprises, especially transnational corporations, and increase accountability for human rights abuses and violations linked to their activities. The ICJ has been actively participating in the previous sessions of these negotiations in the last nine years and is committed to pursue its constructive contribution to the debate. Read our statement below.

“Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) congratulates you on your election as the Chairperson-Rapporteur.

The ICJ acknowledges the efforts made by the Chairmanship to propose a revised and streamlined text on the basis of the various inputs received and consultations organized since the 8th session of this working group. We appreciate that this work has resulted in a more concise and clearer text in several places, which, in some respects, may better facilitate the negotiations ahead of us this week. It brings more internal coherence to the text and avoid repetitions that were affecting previous iterations. We also acknowledge that there are varying and divergent positions among States on the more difficult issues under discussion in this process and that you have proposed some compromise formulations to bridge the gaps.

We, however, regret that some critical provisions have disappeared from the revised draft in front of us at this session. The ICJ is particularly concerned that articles concerning prevention, liability and jurisdiction have been stripped of key elements that served to clarify international human rights law with regard to accountability for human rights abuses and violations in the context of business activities; and to ensure access to justice for the victims of such abuses and violations including through access to effective judicial remedies.

The ICJ will thus intervene in the negotiations during this 9th session in a constructive spirit with the aim to make proposals and comments addressing these gaps in the protection of human rights in the context of the activities of transnational companies and other business enterprises.

We are convinced that this process, after 9 years, needs to deliver an ambitious enough text so as to meet the needs of present and future victims and make a real contribution to the necessary development of international law in that area. For these reasons, we urge all States from all regional groupings to participate actively and constructively in the negotiations.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairperson-Rapporteur.”

Statement delivered by:

Sandra Epal Ratjen, ICJ UN Representative and Senior Legal Adviser, e: sandra.epal@icj.org