The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution last month which will require transnational corporations and other businesses to abide by human rights norms and standards through a legally binding instrument.
Adopted on June 26, 2014 in the face of strong opposition from the European Union and the United States, the resolution received votes in support from 20 member States on the Human Rights Council, while 13 States abstained.
Titled “Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights,” the resolution stresses that “the obligations and primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms lie with the State, and that States must protect against human rights abuse within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including transnational corporations.”
It however emphasizes that transnational corporations and other business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights, as they have the capacity to foster economic well-being, development, technological improvement and wealth, as well as the capacity to cause adverse impacts on human rights.
The Council therefore decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. The specific mandate is for the working group “to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.”
It recommended that the first meeting of the working group will serve to collect inputs, including written inputs, from States and relevant stakeholders on possible principles, scope and elements of such an international legally binding instrument.
The Council affirmed the importance of providing the working group with independent expertise and expert advice in order for it to fulfill its mandate and requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the working group with all the assistance necessary for the effective fulfillment of its mandate.
It also requested the working group to submit a report on progress made to the Human Rights Council for consideration at its thirty-first session.
The resolution has been welcomed by networks and coalitions of civil society organizations around the world as a victory in the promotion of human rights, including by the Treaty Alliance, a group of networks and campaign organizations collectively working to organize advocacy in support of developing binding international regulation to address corporate human rights abuses.
A statement calling for such an international legally binding instrument has been signed by 610 civil society organizations and social movements and 400 individuals from 95 countries.
The Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament and the Vatican have also made statements supporting the adoption of such an instrument.
Click here to download the full text of the resolution