United Nations debates draft treaty on business and human rights

On 18 October 2019, States gathered in a working group concluded their annual week of negotiations at the United Nations in Geneva towards the elaboration of a future treaty. Such an international human rights agreement will contribute to a better protection of human rights of individuals and communities affected by business activities, including those of powerful transnational companies such as in the mining sector.

As there are strong political and economic interests against such a future treaty, the way towards its adoption is still long. Nevertheless, at this year ‘s session, States engaged for the first time in technical and substantial discussions on the content of the future treaty. Elaborating on the work in past years, Franciscans International set out to actively engage in the session by providing input, commentary, and analysis together with other civil society partners. Our aim is to ensure that any future international agreement will address the gaps and obstacles that victims of human rights abuses face.

We supported a public event at the margin of the session highlighting the importance of including a gender-perspective in a future treaty to ensure the protection of the rights of women, which are particularly vulnerable to abuses committed by corporations. During a second event, Franciscans International and its partners provided a platform for testimonies from the Amazon region. Based on cases presented by human rights defenders from Bolivia and Brazil, Professor Olivier de Schutter explored how the current draft text of the treaty could be applied to obtain justice for the victims.

Although Franciscans International welcomed the progress made during the session of the working group this year, we also voiced our concern about the limited time available for negotiations. We therefore called on the working group to continue its work, including through intersessional negotiations and consultations ahead of the 6th session in October 2020.