Last week, a leaked document suggested that the European Union (EU) will no longer participate in negotiations for a legally binding UN treaty on business and human rights. That would be the final nail in the coffin for this important UN treaty, according to Dutch civil society organisations. ActionAid, Milieudefensie, TNI and SOMO urgently call on Minister Sigid Kaag (Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) to intervene in order to continue negotiations on this important human rights treaty.
Avoiding human rights violations
The aim of this UN treaty is to prevent human rights abuses by transnational corporations and provide victims with access to justice in every part of the world. Too often, victims of corporate human rights abuses have limited or no access to legal means in cases against multinational corporations. The international structure of these corporations allows discrepancies between differing jurisdictions to be exploited.
Minister Kaag can and must save the treaty
Earlier this year, Minister Kaag promised the Dutch parliament that the Netherlands would support constructive negotiations for a binding draft treaty. Therefore, SOMO and the other organisations urgently call on Minister Kaag to intervene, and to secure the participation of the EU in the negotiations.
EU’s lack of commitment
In the leaked document, the European Commission (EC) indicated that its input was not sufficiently considered during the negotiations and therefore it would not prioritise the issue in its remaining term, but instead leave it for the next Commission. However, since the new term begins in September, it is unlikely that new members could be ready for the next negotiations in October.
A UN working group has been working on a draft treaty since the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR) adopted a resolution in 2014. From the beginning, the EU’s participation in this working group has been hesitant and passive. This is a missed opportunity for the EU to lead by example and display leadership on such an important topic.