States make historic call for UN to implement binding regulations on Transnational Corporations

18 September 2013

Over 100 social movement and civil society organisations representing hundreds of thousands of workers, peasants, community groups and indigenous peoples have welcomed the historic call for binding obligations on Transnational corporations made by nine countries together with the African and Arab Groups of States.

The historic petition (ES - ENG) led by the Ecuadorian government at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, September 13th, marks a departure from reliance on voluntary mechanisms that have marked the corporate social responsibility debate and which have facilitated systematic corporate impunity.

The petition, supported by the African Group, the Arab Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, emphasises that the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 2011 non-binding “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” will have no impact unless legally binding instruments create a framework for states to regulate and sanction the often illegal actions of Transnational Corporations.

Since its launch in June 2012, the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity has brought together communities affected by corporate violations, social movements, civil society organizations and legal experts to collectively create a Peoples’ Treaty that will propose binding obligations on Transnational Corporations and create an international body to judge and sanction them.

Existing voluntary mechanisms have failed to ensure justice to those who suffer from violations and crimes committed by corporations. This can be seen in the case of the 1 132 (mostly female) workers killed and the thousands wounded in the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in April 2013 and the massacre of 34 miners in the Lonmin Plcs platinum mine at Marikana, South Africa in 2012: in both cases, the perpetrators remain unpunished and the corporations continue to operate in impunity.

“The Ecuadorian initiative is a promising development in the movement to dismantle the architecture of impunity that protects corporations from persecution for their crimes,” said Tony Clark from the Polaris Institute in Canada.

“There is no doubt that transnational corporations have the obligation to respect the law, and if they do not, they must suffer the civil and penal sanctions,” added Lucia Ortiz Coordinator of the Economic Justice Program of Friends of the Earth International.