Diplomacy Wins on the Last Day of the IGWG in Geneva

state Delegates confer in the final session of the 2nd meeting of the un intergovernmental working group/victor barro

state Delegates confer in the final session of the 2nd meeting of the un intergovernmental working group/victor barro

The last day of the second session of the IGWG on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises started with a final panel on access to remedy, and then moved into the process of adopting the report of the session in the afternoon.

While often just a mere formality in such UN proceedings, the exchanges among states concerning the adoption of the draft meeting report was in a temporary state of high diplomatic tension. 

Russia proposed to accept the draft report ‘ad referendum’, meaning on condition that there 14 days be set aside where states and others can provide input to the Chair of the meeting, who then in turn updates the report, finalises the text and report on it to the Human Rights Council in March.

While agreeing that the report be adopted, ad referendum, South Africa proposed an important qualification (contained in brackets in the following quote) to draft recommendation A (c) which stated that “the Chairperson-Rapporteur be entrusted with the preparation of a new programme of work [and a draft negotiating text for the commencement of the negotiations for the proposed legally binding instrument] based on the first and second session of the” IGWG “and to present this text before the third session…for consideration”.  In what might seem bizarre in current international politics, Russia and EU were in alignment on their rebuttal to South Africa, as they suggested that third operative paragraph of the original resolution establishing the IGWG already gave the mandate to the Chair of the IGWG to “prepare elements for the draft legally binding instrument for substantive negotiations” at the third IGWG meeting in 2017.

In an attempt to mediate a compromise, Russia called for a 5 minute pause in proceedings for interested states to convene a discussion after which a proposal will be made to the Chair, which was agreed. After recommencing the debate, the Chair suggested that the draft report include reference to the purpose of the third session to particularly focus on “operative paragraph number 3” of the resolution establishing the IGWG.  The nature of the discussion reflects the urgency with which South Africa wants the treaty process to proceed, and on the other side some reticence from states in support of the UNGPs implementation, but it can only hoped that the quick resolution to the impasse today portends well for the inevitably challenging debates that will come during the third session of the IGWG. There was certainly a quiet feeling of accomplishment among diplomats in Room XX after proceedings finished.

Earlier in the day access to remedy was the main theme of the discussions, and it had already been touched upon throughout but the panellists added additional themes to the discussion including the difficulties of establishing judicial remedies without separation of powers at the national level, and a prevailing lack of trust in national level courts.  Mexico discussed this point by asking whether non-judicial human rights mechanisms could be a way to ensure access to remedy for affected people. One panellist in response though, Claudia Müller-Hoff from European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, noted how these can generally be most effective as complementary to judicial mechanisms. She nonetheless recognised the fact that they may be more accessible, especially given the practical difficulties in reaching international mechanisms.

Namibia and Ethiopia were concerned by the lack of resources at the domestic level, especially in terms of technological skills for the gathering of evidence. Panellists, and later on civil society, highlighted the need to shift the burden of proof in order to attain justice.

Bolivia supported a view expressed by a panellist that the treaty consider justice for actions that damage the environment, arguing that too many resources were dedicated to clean up of damage caused by transnational corporations when they could be dedicated to fulfilling the right to development through the strengthening of public services and infrastructure. The importance of including the right to development in the future treaty was also mentioned by civil society, notably CETIM and the Legal Resource Centre.

Civil society organisations mentioned several issues that are key to them, including abolishing the corporate veil that separates parent companies within transnational corporations from the liability for acts committed by their subsidiaries. It was suggested instead that the treaty recognise transnational corporations as one corporate group, so that parent corporations can be held accountable for any acts by corporation in the group that commits human rights abuses. 

Beth Sephens, Professor at Rutgers-Camden Law School raised the possibility of the treaty containing a committee that can handle complaints, suspecting that the establishment of an international civil or criminal court might take too long to set up.

The United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights took the floor to inform the IGWG that the issue of access to remedy was high on their agenda and would be the subject of their report to the UN General Assembly next year. They also encouraged stakeholders to issue communications to them in relation to this matter.

Once all proceeding of this second session of the IGWG were complemented the Chair-Person Rapporteur closed the proceedings with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”

Elise Golay / RIDHhttp://ridh.org

 

La diplomacia logra un acuerdo en el quinto y último día de sesión del Grupo de Trabajo

El último día de la segunda sesión del Grupo de Trabajo Intergubernamental sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos empezó con un panel en el que se debatió el acceso a la reparación y concluyó con la adopción del reporte de la sesión. Aunque esto último no suele ser más que una formalidad en este tipo de reuniones en la ONU, la posición de algunos Estados condujo a una breve tensión diplomática.

Rusia propuso adoptar el reporte “ad referendum”, es decir, aceptarlo con la salvedad de que durante los próximos 14 días los Estados puedan transmitirle sus contribuciones a la presidenta de la sesión, quien debe actualizar el reporte, terminar el texto y presentarlo al Consejo de Derechos Humanos en marzo de 2017.

Sudáfrica, por su parte, respaldó la adopción “ad referéndum”, pero propuso un cambio importante (que se señala entre corchetes en la siguiente cita) en la recomendación A (inciso c), en la que se establece: “La Presidenta-Relatora debe preparar un nuevo programa de trabajo [y un borrador de texto para comenzar las negociaciones del instrumento legalmente vinculante] basado en el primer y segundo periodo de sesiones del Grupo de Trabajo y debe presentar ese texto antes del tercer período de sesiones para su debate”.

En un movimiento extraño en la actual coyuntura política internacional, Rusia y la Unión Europea se alinearon en contra de Sudáfrica y anotaron que el tercer párrafo operativo de la resolución 26/9, que dio origen al Grupo de Trabajo, ya otorga a quien ejerza la presidencia del grupo el mandato de preparar “los elementos para un proyecto de instrumento internacional jurídicamente vinculante a fin de emprender las negociaciones sustantivas sobre el tema al comienzo del tercer período de sesiones del grupo de trabajo”, que se celebrará en 2017.

Inmediatamente después, la presidenta del Grupo concedió una pausa de cinco minutos que Rusia solicitó para tratar de concertar un acuerdo entre los Estados concernidos.

Al retomar el debate, la presidenta propuso incluir en el borrador del reporte una referencia al propósito de la tercera sesión, tal como se establece en el tercer párrafo operativo de la resolución 26/9, citado anteriormente.

El debate reflejó la importancia que Sudáfrica otorga al proceso de la negociación del tratado y la reticencia de algunos Estados que privilegian la implementación de los Principios Rectores. Ojalá que la celeridad con la que se solucionó el impase de hoy sea un buen presagio para los arduos debates que inevitablemente tendrán lugar durante la tercera sesión del Grupo de Trabajo.

En el panel de discusión de la mañana se abordó el tema del acceso a la reparación, que ya había sido tratado durante la semana. Los panelistas añadieron nuevos temas al debate, como la dificultad de establecer reparaciones judiciales en contextos en los que no hay separación de poderes o la falta de confianza en las cortes nacionales. Al respecto, México preguntó si los mecanismos no judiciales podrían ser una alternativa para asegurar que las víctimas accedan a la reparación. La panelista Claudia Müller-Hoff, del Centro Europeo para los Derechos Humanos y Constitucionales, indicó que estos mecanismos suelen ser más efectivos como medida complementaria de los procedimientos judiciales, aunque pueden ser más accesibles para las víctimas que los mecanismos internacionales.

Etiopía y Namibia expresaron su preocupación por la falta de recursos a nivel local, especialmente de capacidad tecnológica para la recolección de evidencia. Los panelistas, y posteriormente representantes la sociedad civil, subrayaron que para que se haga justicia es necesario invertir la carga de la prueba.

Otra panelista sostuvo que el tratado debe contemplar que los daños al medio ambiente sean justiciables, una posición que fue respaldada por Bolivia con el argumento de que los Estados deben invertir muchos de sus recursos para limpiar los daños de las transnacionales, lo que afecta su derecho al desarrollo. Organizaciones de la sociedad civil, como el CETIM y el Legal Resource Centre, coincidieron en que el tratado debe incluir la protección de este derecho.

Otras ONG mencionaron temas clave para la sociedad civil, como el levantamiento del velo corporativo, que permite que las casas matrices de las transnacionales no respondan por los actos cometidos por sus empresas subsidiarias. Se sugirió que el tratado reconozca a las transnacionales como grupo empresarial, de manera que las casas matrices deban responder por los actos corporativos del grupo cuando se cometan violaciones de derechos humanos.

Beth Sephens, profesora de la Rutgers-Camden Law School, planteó la posibilidad de que el tratado establezca un comité que se encargue de las denuncias, toda vez que la puesta en marcha de una corte internacional civil o penal tomaría demasiado tiempo.

El Grupo de Trabajo de la ONU sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos tomó la palabra para informar que el acceso a la reparación será el tema principal del informe que presentará a la Asamblea General el próximo año. De igual manera, alentó a los actores concernidos a presentar comunicaciones sobre este tema ante el Grupo.

Luego de la adopción del reporte, la presidenta del Grupo de Trabajo Intergubernamental cerró esta segunda sesión con una cita de Martin Luther King Jr.: “La moral no se puede legislar, pero la conducta se puede regular. Con un decreto no se puede cambiar un corazón, pero sí se puede contener a quien no lo tiene.”

RIDH http://ridh.org/

En el cuarto día del Grupo de Trabajo se discutió el alcance del futuro tratado: ¿cuáles empresas y cuáles derechos?

A lo largo del cuarto día de reunión del Grupo de Trabajo Intergubernamental sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos la discusión sobre el alcance del tratado volvió a girar en torno a los mismos temas que concentraron el debate el año pasado: ¿cuáles empresas estarán obligadas a cumplirlo? ¿Cuáles derechos humanos serán protegidos por el instrumento?

Para Sudáfrica, equiparar las empresas nacionales a las transnacionales en el tratado sería “una parodia de justicia”, toda vez que estas últimas tienen la capacidad de evadir su responsabilidad legal a través del cambio constante de jurisdicción. Además, el vacío jurídico que existe actualmente es la aplicación del derecho internacional de los derechos humanos a las empresas transnacionales.

Otros Estados que de manera explícita o implícita se manifestaron a favor de la focalización del tratado en las transnacionales fueron Cuba, Indonesia, Paquistán y Venezuela. Bolivia y Brasil se refirieron a la dificultad de definir con precisión a las transnacionales, a lo que Rusia añadió que sería extremadamente complicado diseñar estándares unificados para un tipo de empresas que ni siquiera están definidas.

La delegación de Ecuador anotó que la resolución 26/9 del Consejo de Derechos Humanos, que dio origen al Grupo, contiene orientaciones claras al respecto pues habla de “empresas transnacionales y otras empresas”. Aunque no está claro si esta es una alineación con la postura que expresó el lunes la Unión Europea en el sentido de que el tratado abarque a todas las empresas, es evidente que la dinámica de los Estados ha cambiado durante la discusión.

Las organizaciones de la sociedad civil también presentaron diferentes perspectivas. CETIM y la Red-DESC coincidieron en que la regulación de las transnacionales debe ser prioritaria en el futuro tratado, aunque la Red precisó que dejar por fuera a las empresas nacionales puede incentivar a las transnacionales a reajustarse para no ser cobijadas por el instrumento, lo que dejaría una laguna en el marco jurídico internacional. El CETIM, por su parte, se hizo eco del argumento de algunos Estados en el sentido de que el tratado debe enfocarse exclusivamente en las transnacionales, pues las empresas nacionales y estatales ya están regidas por las leyes locales.

En contra del argumento acerca de la dificultad para definir a las empresas trasnacionales se pronunciaron los panelistas Khalil Hamdani, de la Lahore School of Economics en Paquistán, y Carlos Correa, del South Centre, quien hizo referencia a otros instrumentos, como los Principios Rectores de la ONU o la Declaración tripartita de principios sobre las empresas multinacionales y la política social de la OIT, que abordan el problema de las transnacionales aun sin proporcionar una definición precisa.

El mismo orador sostuvo, frente al alcance del tratado en materia de protección de los derechos, que es necesario superar el debate de cuáles son las “violaciones flagrantes” toda vez que el instrumento debe incluir todo tipo de violación de los derechos humanos consagrados en las convenciones y pactos internacionales y dejar la puerta abierta a la inclusión de nuevos desarrollos, como el tratado sobre los derechos de los campesinos.

Ecuador respaldó esta posición y argumentó que la definición del alcance del tratado en cuanto a los derechos protegidos no debería ser difícil si se basa en los principios de universalidad, indivisibilidad e interdependencia de los derechos humanos.

Las organizaciones de la sociedad civil hicieron referencia, específicamente, a necesidad de incluir la protección de los derechos humanos de los pueblos indígenas, los trabajadores y del derecho al agua.

La Unión Europea, que participó activamente en las discusiones sobre el tema tanto el año pasado como el lunes de esta semana cuando se dio inicio a la sesión, no hizo uso de la palabra. Sí intervino, en cambio, en el panel de la tarde en el que se discutió la prevención, reparación, rendición de cuentas y acceso a la justicia.

Los participantes compartieron opiniones sobre la implementación de los Principios Rectores y su relación con la elabaroación de un instrumento vinculante. Lene Wendland, consejera sore empresas y derechos humanos para la Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos (ACNUDH) presentó el proyecto “Rendición de cuentas y reparación” a través del cual la Oficina busca reforzar los sistemas legales locales para que sean capaces de responder de manera integral en casos de violaciones de derechos humanos relacionadas con la acción de las corporaciones.

La Unión Europea reiteró la importancia de basar el tratado en la observancia de los Principios Rectores. En el mismo sentido se pronunció México, que además puso de relieve la importancia de definir las responsabilidades de las transnacionales antes de negociar el contenido del tratado. Sin embargo, expertos, Estados y ONG coincidieron, a lo largo de la sesión, en que la implementación no es el único aspecto problemático de los Principios, que carecen de previsiones en materia de acceso a la reparación o de evasión de impuestos. El instrumento vinculante debería proporcionar esas medidas complementarias de protección.

Carlos López, de la Comisión Internacional de Juristas, indicó que el tratado brinda una posibilidad única para determinar el marco legal de la cooperación en asuntos legales y judiciales. López añadió que el instrumento puede nutrirse de las disposiciones sobre cooperación interestatal de la Convención de la ONU contra la Corrupción y tomar como referencia el Protocolo Opcional de la Convención de los Derechos del Niño, que establece la responsabilidad legal de las personas jurídicas.

RIDH http://ridh.org/

Discussions on scope of the treaty on day four of the intergovernmental working group session in Geneva

Two meetings were held on the fourth and penultimate day of this second session of the IGWG on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises (TNCs-OBEs), the first one on defining the scope of the future Treaty, and the second one on prevention, remedy, accountability and access to justice.

During the first half of the day, the Working Group discussed the scope of the future Treaty in relation, firstly, to the types of corporate actors who will be subject to the new Treaty, and secondly, to the scope of the rights that need to be included in the legally binding instrument. Little debate focussed on the second question, other than a handful of comments from the panellists supporting the need for the treaty to address the full range of human rights, which wasn’t brought into question by any state.

The debate on whether or not the Treaty should apply to TNCs or to all business enterprises had echoes of the discussion on this issue from last year, although there were more views shared by states. South Africa stated that it would be a “travesty of justice” if the treaty equated national companies with transnational corporations due to the latter’s ability to evade justice by shifting jurisdictions at will, and the gap in international law remains the application of international human rights law to the operations of transnational corporations. Other states that implicitly or explicitly supported the application of the treaty to transnational corporations included Venezuela, Pakistan, Indonesia and Cuba. Brazil and Bolivia both mentioned the challenge of defining transnational corporations, as did Russia by presenting the view that the design of uniform standards on TNCs would be extremely difficult as no real definition of TNCs exists. The delegation of Ecuador (in their individual capacity rather than acting as Chair) noted interestingly that the resolution that established the Intergovernmental Working Group provides clear guidance because it relates to ‘transnational corporations and other business enterprises’. Whether or not this is a tacit alignment with the EU’s demand on Monday for the process to cover all corporations is not entirely clear, but the dynamics are certainly shifting for states in this discussion. For its part, as opposed to last year, the European Union was present throughout, but stayed silent on this subject, although they made their views clear on Monday that the treaty should cover all corporations.

There was a plurality of views from civil society on this issue also. CETIM and ESCR-Net both agreed that the priority for the treaty should be governance over transnational corporations, although the latter argued that to exclude national corporations might generate a perverse incentive for transnational corporations to arrange themselves in a way that would avoid coverage by the treaty, and leave a gap in the international legal framework. CETIM echoed the views of some states that the treaty should solely focus on transnational corporations because national and state-owned businesses are already subject to domestic law.

On the question of the definition of transnational corporations being a challenge to developing a treaty due to the challenge with defining them, this point was challenged by panellists Khalil Hamdani from Lahore School of Economics in Pakistan and Carlos Correa from the South Centre. In his presentation, referred to various other instruments on transnational corporations, including the UNGPs and the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, which have not needed to develop a precise definition of transnational corporations.

The afternoon meeting focused on ways forward to implement the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) and their relation to the elaboration of the binding instruments. Lene Wendland, Adviser on Business and Human Rights, at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) presented the OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project, which aims “to enhance the effectiveness of domestic legal systems in providing accountability and remedy in cases of business-related human rights abuses.” The EU took the floor to reiterate the importance of rooting the Treaty in the context of alignment with the UNGPs. Mexico, after echoing the views of the EU on UNGPs implementation, stressed the importance of finding consensus on the nature of transnational corporations’ responsibilities before negotiating the content of the treaty. Nonetheless, a common theme of the debate throughout the afternoon, expressed by panellists, states and civil society representatives that implementation is not the only issue surrounding the UNGPs, but it was noted that they lack proper means of ensuring access to remedy, and the legally binding instrument would complement the UNGPs with additional protection measures.

One panellist, Carlos Lopez of the International Commission of Jurists, also insisted on the importance of cooperation between states and expressed that the future Treaty provides a real opportunity for a legal framework in relation to mutual legal assistance and judicial cooperation. He added that the legally binding instrument could be inspired by the UN Convention against Corruption, which establishes obligations on inter-state cooperation, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child addressing the sale of children, which establishes the liability of legal persons.

Elise Golay, RIDH http://ridh.org/

Elise Golay Geneva Human Rights Agenda Project Officer

Rue Gardiol 8, Atelier N.307, Case Postale 158 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Suisse Tel. +41 (0)22 732 21 89 http://www.ridh.org http://www.ridh.org/

Obligaciones de las corporaciones en materia de derechos humanos: instrumentos internacionales y enfoques de responsabilidad jurídica

La tercera jornada del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Transnacionales y otras Empresas y Derechos Humanos continuó con el tema principal de la sesión de ayer, relativa a las obligaciones y responsabilidades de las transnacionales y otras empresas con respecto a los derechos humanos. En particular, durante la mañana los panelistas invitados hicieron un repaso de los ejemplos de instrumentos internacionales que abordan las obligaciones de los actores privados.

La apertura la llevó a cabo la Sra. Kromjong, secretaria general de la Organización Internacional de Empleadores, que nombró algunos de los instrumentos reguladores, como los contemplados por la OCDE y la OIT, o los Principios Rectores de la ONU, pero sobre todo recalcó que son los Estados los responsables de garantizar los derechos humanos, sancionar e investigar los abusos y reparar los daños. En ese contexto, las empresas pueden contribuir a esa tarea de los Gobiernos, pero no tienen la obligación de hacerlo.

Ecuador se opuso a esta visión: para ellos, los actores no estatales están concernidos por los estándares internacionales de derechos humanos según lo estipulado en diferentes instrumentos legales, como la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos.

La Sra. Vera Luisa Da Costa e Silva, secretaria general del Convenio Marco para el Control del Tabaco, afirmó que la industria del sector ha creado obstáculos y ha hecho cabildeo para que las reglamentaciones nacionales no se cumplan.

La representante de la OIT explicó los tres tipos de instrumentos con los que cuentan en su organización que, además de proteger a los empleados, velan por los derechos humanos y potencian el crecimiento económico.

Una vez más llamó la atención la alta participación de los países latinoamericanos. En este caso, fueron los únicos que tomaron la palabra durante la sesión, junto con Sudáfrica. India se mantuvo en silencio aun cuando ha sido destacado como uno de los pocos Estados que cuenta con un defensor (ombudsman) en materia de responsabilidad social empresarial.

La delegada de Cuba creyó conveniente que el Grupo de Trabajo estudie en profundidad los instrumentos que ya existen y recalcó la importancia de que el tratado cuente con un mecanismo de verificación que evalúe periódicamente si las compañías respetan los derechos humanos, una propuesta respaldada por Bolivia y por representantes de la sociedad civil. La Red-DESC, por ejemplo, declaró que el tratado debería establecer un sistema de rendición de cuentas internacional que respaldara la operación efectiva de los sistemas nacionales y regionales.

Venezuela expresó su preocupación respecto a las indemnizaciones. El nuevo instrumento no debería dejar espacios abiertos que permitan a las transnacionales evadir sus responsabilidades.

Sudáfrica enfatizó las nefastas consecuencias que provocan las industrias de extracción y las sistemáticas violaciones que se han hecho en las tierras de los indígenas en todo el mundo. Es fundamental que se consulte a las comunidades para la redacción del documento, que debe incluir también las bases del Convenio Marco para el Control del Tabaco.

En su intervención, la Red-DESC, en nombre de más de 60 de las organizaciones que la conforman, se refirió a los múltiples casos de Estados en los que la Constitución reconoce la obligación legal, e incluso la responsabilidad penal, de los actores no estatales con respecto a los derechos humanos.

La abogada Nomonde Nyembe, quien participaba en el panel, también hizo énfasis en el poder que tienen las constituciones para asegurar que las corporaciones transnacionales sean responsables en materia de derechos humanos.

Es de resaltar que la atención hoy ya no estuvo puesta sobre Brasil, que había estado en la mira los dos primeros días de esta reunión del Grupo de Trabajo. Su situación interna fue discutida en un evento paralelo al que asistieron tanto ONG locales como la delegación brasilera.

La sesión de la tarde estuvo consagrada a la discusión de los enfoques para determinar la responsabilidad civil, administrativa y penal de las corporaciones.

El panelista Richard Meeran, socio de Leigh Day & Co, resaltó que, aunque el deber de cuidado se impone en la acción de las corporaciones, es necesario establecer pruebas que permitan medir el respeto efectivo de la diligencia debida. Para conseguirlo se requiere contar con un mecanismo de regulación dotado de recursos suficientes para recabar la información.

La abogada Nomonde Nyembe, del Centre for Applied Legal Studies, destacó a su vez que en la asignación de la responsabilidad de las empresas debe considerarse el enfoque de género y tener en cuenta la afectación diferencial que sufren las poblaciones vulnerables, como los niños y las personas mayores.

Para la jurista Michelle Harrison, de Earth Rights International, un eventual tratado debe reafirmar que las corporaciones son legalmente responsables “como personas naturales” y que deben asumir también las acciones de sus empleados, agentes y subcontratistas. Harrison indicó que, para la elaboración del instrumento, la Convención de la ONU contra la Corrupción es un modelo valioso de rendición de cuentas.

Durante las intervenciones de los Estados hubo más participación de países no latinoamericanos, como Etiopía, Namibia y Palestina. Sin embargo, el discurso de Ecuador sobresalió pues puso de manifiesto que el tratado es una “oportunidad histórica” para “corregir los errores” que se cometieron en negociaciones anteriores en las que se excluyó de responsabilidad penal a las personas jurídicas.

Al final de la sesión, la embajadora de Sudáfrica, Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, afirmó que debe ser claro que el objetivo de estas discusiones no es juzgar a las empresas. “No es fácil para ellas adquirir una conciencia moral: si fuera así, ya lo estaríamos viendo”, concluyó.

Carolina Pardal Belinchón, RIDH http://ridh.org/

Obligations and responsibilities of TNCs-OBEs discussed during the third day of the IGWG

The third day of the IGWG on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises (TNC-OBEs) continued on the theme of obligations, this time focusing on the responsibilities of TNCs and OBEs with respect to human rights. Today’s session focused on existing international instruments addressing the obligations of private actors, as well as on approaches to clarify standards of liability of TNC-OBEs.

Ms Kromjong, Secretary General of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) opened the discussion by listing some existing regulatory instruments, including the ILO and OECD standards and the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP).

Her main argument was based on the idea that, fundamentally, governments hold the ultimate responsibility to respect and implement international human rights law, leaving aside any question of the responsibilities of companies by adding that the TNC-OBEs could support the efforts of governments in implementing international human rights standards but were not duty-bearers, a view backed by the IOE. This argument was challenged by Ecuador who argued that non-state actors are indeed covered by international human rights standards including the UDHR, among other international law instruments.

In the interventions from civil society, the collective view of over 60 ESCR-Net members was present on this issue, which referred to national constitutions in several countries, as well as Africa’s 2014 regional instrument, that recognises the legal responsibilities, and in some cases criminal liability, of non-state actors to respect human rights. Panellist Nomonde Nyembe, Attorney in Business and Human Rights, also recognised the power of constitutions to ensure that TNC-OBEs are responsible for their human rights.

Additionally, Mr Surya Deva, Associate Professor in Law at the City University of Hong Kong brought the room’s attention to the fact the UNGPs have a principle expressing that all business enterprises have an independent responsibility to respect human rights.

Latin American States have been particularly present in today’s discussion, while India has remained silent, although the State was noted for being one of the only countries in the world to have a corporate social responsibility ombudsman. Today, the focus shifted away from Brazil, after a lot of attention earlier in the week, on the domestic situation but was addressed in part during a side session of Brazilian NGOs that the Brazil delegation attended. Uruguay underlined the lack of human rights content within the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, thereby emphasising the need for the elaboration of an international Treaty more inclusive of human rights semantics.

Cuba and Bolivia suggested that a monitoring mechanism should be set up to ensure the implementation of the future Treaty and provide access to remedy. This was also supported by civil society representatives, including ESCR-Net who stated: “the treaty should establish a complementary international system of accountability to support the effective operation of national and regional systems.”

Duty of care deriving from UK law was seen by Richard Meeran as an important aspect to include in the Treaty, while Michelle Harrison highlighted the need for a provision to eliminate “foreign non-convenience” and not to include a statute of limitation, a view which was backed by Bolivia. Michael Congiu, mentioned the need for resources dedicated to training and capacity-building for TNCs to comply with human rights standards.

National Contact Points (NCPs) proceedings for the implementation of the OECD Guidelines were considered to be insufficient by civil society and experts on the panel, in discordance with the IOE, who emphasised on the importance for the Treaty not to undermine the OECD Guidelines and the UNGPs.

Elise Golay, RIDH http://ridh.org/

IGWG Day 2 | Summary

Day two of the second meeting of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises (TNC-OBEs) with respect to human rights proved electric, yet collaborative.

The morning downpour failed to dampen the spirits of civil society, while panellists fired shots in Panel II on primary obligations of states. After first hearing from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who were unable to speak yesterday, the discussions turned to state obligations with respect to TNC-OBEs.

Daniel Aguirre of the International Commission of Jurists highlighted the innumerable obstacles faced in terms of human rights protections in Myanmar. He spoke of the recently enacted investment law that failed to follow due process, and the domestic lacuna of human rights protection.

A communal sharp intake of breath from the back rows of Room XX was audible when Ariel Meyerstein of the US Council for International Business asserted that investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is a “form of human rights protection” – a statement which was later countered by Ana María Suárez Franco.

Ana María Suárez Franco of FIAN International explained the relevance of the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for elaborating the extra-territorial obligations (ETOs) of states in the binding instrument. She pointed out that the UNGPs are ambiguous regarding ETOs and that this is an important gap that the binding instrument should fill.

Juan Hernandez-Zubizarreta of the University of the Basque Country highlighted the need to regulate the localisation and de-localisation of companies. He argued that the human rights system must be used to level the playing field in terms of competitive advantage, otherwise rights violations such as child labour will be permitted to persist.

In the afternoon, Panel II continued to cover important ground through the topic of jurisprudential and practical approaches to elements of extraterritoriality and national sovereignty.

David Bilchitz of the University of Johannesburg posed the question of what happens if in a situation of corporate human rights abuse, a state fails to implement a legal framework to protect its citizens, and so the corporation is left to act without accountability. He argued that corporations must have human rights obligations imposed directly on them.

Harris Gleckmann of the University of Massachusetts considered different systems for affected peoples (including national and subnational legal systems, interveners such as ombudsmen, home country responsibilities via extra-territorial obligations, and an international court dealing with corporate human rights abuses). He asserted that it is an illusion that states can exercise control over TNCs as, inevitably, key documents and assets lie outside the jurisdiction of the state, making the notion of “full control” a fallacy.

Kinda Mohamedieh of the South Centre looked deeper into the concept of ETOs, arguing that factors such as the location of assets help establish a link between a state and a corporate entity. She contended that using such factors to address the nationality of an actor under a future binding instrument will be necessary for establishing jurisdiction of home states to ensure their corporations comply with human rights standards when functioning abroad.

Leah Margulies of Corporate Accountability shared insights from the creation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, showing the need for data to support the treaty provisions which demonstrates the costs of human rights abuses by TNCs which are born by the governments themselves. She drew on article 5(3) of the Framework, explaining the need to avoid conflict of interests.

Gianni Tognoni of the Peoples Tribunal contended that there is a shared conception among states and TNCs crimes linked to the economy are not perceived to be crimes under international law. He also considered the challenges of remedies, and explained that the right to a decent salary is linked to the right to life.

Fortunately no states have walked out of the second IGWG so far, and differences are being tabled and worked through. The absence of countries such as Canada, the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand is, however, to be noted.

La extraterritorialidad sobre la mesa

Durante la segunda jornada del Grupo de Trabajo sobre las Empresas y Otras Empresas se debatieron en detalle las obligaciones primarias de los estados incluyendo las obligaciones extraterritoriales relacionadas con las transnacionales y otras empresas con respecto a la protección de los derechos humanos.

En cuanto a las intervenciones de los diferentes panelistas destacó la ponencia de Juan Hernández Zubizarreta, profesor de la Universidad del País Vasco. En su opinión existe una asimetría descomunal entre los derechos y las obligaciones de las transnacionales. Esta asimetría es sumamente injusta y por eso la necesidad imperante de la creación de instrumento jurídicamente vinculante junto con una corte internacional que apoye la aplicación del instrumento.

Otra de las panelistas, la Sra. Ana María Suáres Franco, colaboradora en Fian International, hizo hincapié en la importancia de tener en cuenta los principios de Maastricht en la redacción del tratado, puesto que éstos fueron realizados con base en el derecho vigente ante la preocupación de los expertos de derecho internacional de la tendencia a reducir la protección de los derechos humanos.

La intervención oral del Sr. Meyerstein del Consejo Estadounidense de Negocios Internacionales causó cierta discordia al afirmar que los Acuerdos Internacionales de Inversión son un vehículo para proteger los derechos humanos. Más tarde aclaró su comentario añadiendo que estos Acuerdos protegen los derechos individuales de los inversores a la propiedad. A esta puntualización el representante de ESCR-net, el Sr.Dominic Renfrey, aclaró lo siguiente: “ Esto ignora por completo el hecho de que los Acuerdos Internacionales de Inversión son usados exclusivamente por las corporativas (llamadas “personas legales”) para defender sus prioridades económicas, las empresas no cuentan con derechos humanos”.

La participación de países latinoamericanos fue alta. Por ejemplo, en el caso de Bolivia preguntaron a los expertos de qué manera las víctimas se podrían beneficiar de los acuerdos bilaterales de inversión para exigir justicia, dado que los fallos nacionales no son acotados por las transnacionales y también cuestionaron cómo los principios de Maastricht podrían evitar las maniobras de evasión de jurisdicción. La delegación ecuatoriana explicó que su estado ha establecido normas que fijan límites y promueven formas de producción que protegen el medio ambiente , sin embargo muchas transnacionales no cumplen con las normativas, de ahí la necesidad de la creación de un instrumento vinculante.

China se pronunció alentando a los estados a que tomen medidas para mejorar las leyes internas para instar a las multinacionales a que promuevan la protección de los derechos humanos dentro de su país y fuera de él.

En la tarde se destacó el tema de la limitación de la competición entre los estados con respecto a las inversiones. El artículo 5.3 en el Convenio Marco para el control del tabaco serviría como posible provisión para el Tratado para evitar el conflicto de intereses de los representantes de compañías que influyen en las políticas de estados y legislaciones para favorecer los intereses de las corporativas.

Para cerrar la sesión, contamos con la contribución del panelista David Bilschitz, que instó al GTI que tuvieran en mente el fundamento de los derechos humanos y que todos los estratos de la sociedad deben respetarlos incluyendo las empresas.

Carolina Pardal Belinchón.

Extraterritorial obligations in relation to TNCs/OBEs discussed during second day of IGWG on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises

The second day of the Intergovernmental Working Group consisted of a panel on Primary obligations of States. The main theme discussed was on extraterritorial obligations in relation to TNCs and other Business Enterprises (OBEs).

Panellist Ana Maria Suárez from FIAN International emphasised on the importance of taking into account the Maastricht Principles when elaborating the binding Treaty. The Principles are not themselves human rights legal standards, but they can provide some guidance when considering incorporating extraterritorial obligations into the Treaty.

Another important issue was raised by Juan Hernández-Zubizarreta who underlined the normative inequality between the rights and the obligations of TNCs and OBEs. He highlighted that their rights are protected through the contracts they sign with states, while their responsibilities are only guided by soft code of conducts and self-monitoring.

Mr Meyerstein from the US Council for International Business caused discord when he claimed that ISDS was a form of Human Rights protection. The delegation of Bolivia and Mrs Suárez openly disagreed with such statement, as did civil society representatives. Indonesian Focal Point stated: “ISDS only protect the interests of investors.”

The representative of the US Council clarified later that individual investors, if they were individual human beings (called “natural persons”) might be able to make a claim before an ISDS mechanism. However, Dominic Renfrey, representative of ECSR-Net stated: “This ignores the fact that ISDS is exclusively used by corporate entities (known as 'legal persons') to defend their economic priorities, and companies do not have human rights.”

It could be argued that ISDS mechanisms in fact further protect the rights of individual investors, rather than the rights of victims of human rights violations perpetrated by TNCs and OBEs; this echoes the normative inequality raised by Mr Hernández-Zubizarreta.

In the evening meeting, one of the highlights was in relation to limiting competition between states with regards to investments and investors. Article 5.3 of The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was mentioned by (…) as a possible provision for the future Treaty to avoid conflict of interest between company representatives influencing state policies and legislations in favour of corporate interest.

Mr Tognoni, Secretary General of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal said that preventive measures should be included in all trade or investment agreements to avoid potential violations of human rights.

The important message to be retained from today’s meetings is perhaps that currently, companies’ reponsibilities are monitored by soft mechanisms. States who have interests in hosting such companies, fail to efficiently implement human rights standards and legislation that would effectively protect victims rather than favour TNCs and OBEs, especially when it involves extraterritorial activities.

“Neo-liberalistas”, as Ethiopia called private stakeholders, should not have their rights and interests put above those of victims of abuses by TNCs/OBEs

Closing the day, in the final contribution from the panel, David Bilschitz called on the IGWG to remember the foundation of human rights and that the UDHR calls for all organs of society to respect human rights, and that includes all actors with the ability to abuse human rights, including corporations.

He added, in defence of the idea for a robust international mechanism to implement the Treaty, that sometimes extraterritorial jurisdiction fails without a complementary international system to ensure accountability and remedy for affected people.

Elise Golay, RIDH http://ridh.org/

El Tratado como solución a la impunidad de transnacionales y otras empresas

Hoy día comenzó el segundo periodo de sesiones del Grupo de Trabajo sobre las Empresas Transnacionales y Otras Empresas con respecto a los Derechos Humanos en la sede de Naciones Unidas en Ginebra.

La apertura fue realizada por el Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, Zeid Ra-ad Al Hussein, quien felicitó a los componentes del grupo por el trabajo completado hasta ahora y animó a que se continúen con las deliberaciones apropiadas para llegar a un acuerdo. Posteriormente, se nombró por segunda vez a la Presidenta Relatora, la Embajadora María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés de la Republica de Ecuador, quien recalcó la suma importancia de crear un instrumento internacional jurídicamente vinculante, cuyo objetivo fue aprobado en la resolución del Consejo de Derechos Humanos 26/9 del 2014, para completar los vacíos existentes en esta área.

La agenda de trabajo se aprobó sin objeciones por ninguna de las partes dejando así la atmósfera en calma.

Habría que destacar la alta participación de países latinoamericanos quienes apoyaron la creación de un instrumento jurídicamente vinculante, para que así se pueda llevar a cabo la rendición de cuentas y la reparación de las victimas. Algunos de los estados se mostraron muy apegados a los principios rectores de Naciones Unidas como complementos fundamentales a la hora de eliminar las brechas y desigualdades.

Una de las intervenciones más esperadas fue la del distinguido delegado de la Unión Europea, puesto que su apoyo no quedó claro en el primer periodo de sesiones, sin embargo confirmaron su colaboración teniendo en cuenta que no se opera desde un vacío jurídico sino que se dispone de los principios rectores de Naciones Unidas y que cualquier nuevo instrumento debe ser inclusivo tomando como base a éstos. Otro de los aspectos que destacó fue la importancia de que se tomen en consideración las voces de la sociedad civil y de los defensores de los derechos humanos y por último que las discusiones no deberían limitarse a las transnacionales sino a todo tipo de empresas incluyendo las nacionales y locales.

Llamó la atención el apoyo de China y Rusia aunque esta última con algunas reservas y la protesta llevada a cabo por numerosos miembros de la sociedad civil saliendo de la sala durante la intervención oral de Brasil.

Las posturas de las diferentes organizaciones de la sociedad civil fueron bastante regulares y todas ellas priman los derechos humanos frente a las inversiones y proyectos empresariales. Se introdujo la perspectiva de género y la inclusión de los defensores de los derechos humanos. Recomendaron la creación de un mecanismo de supervisión y reparación enfocado en las víctimas. Hicieron referencia a la existencia de victimas individuales frente a comunidades afectadas.

Para concluir, varias de las organizaciones de la sociedad civil expresaron su desacuerdo con la participación de empresas durante las negociaciones del acuerdo a diferencia de algunos estados que creen pertinentes los insumos del sector privado.

Carolina Pardal Belinchon.

The Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on TNCs and other Business Enterprises started its second session at the UN in Geneva

The second session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises opened on 24 October 2016 at the UN in Geneva. The Working Group was established in 2014 by Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9 with the mandate to “elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.” Her Excellency Mrs Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Ecuadorian Ambassador, was re-elected as Chair and, in contrast with last year’s session, the opening meeting and the adoption of the Programme of Work ran smoothly, without apparent controversies.

The European Union, who in July 2015 tried to impose conditions to expand the mandate of discussion on the scope of the Working Group, effectively threatening viability of the first session, welcomed this year’s programme. However, by emphasising that a treaty most not undermine implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, EU engagement seems predicated on an intention to widen the potential scope of the future instrument to include national businesses, not only those with a transnational characteristic. Although the EU is still adopting a conservative position, their willingness to participate in the discussions was widely commended by states in the Working Group.

A significant development in the morning occurred during the first intervention of the Brazilian delegation. Upon speaking the vast majority of civil society representatives left the negotiating room for several minutes to protest the recent change of power in Brazil, considered by many Brazilian civil society representatives here to be a “political coup”.

More information on today’s meetings can be viewed via the United Nations webcast here http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/watch/opening-of-session-1st-meeting-2nd-session-of-open-ended-intergovernmental-working-group-on-transnational-corporations/5182888735001 and on the Treaty Alliance's website http://treatymovement.com/. #StopCorporateAbuse #BindingTreaty

Elise Golay, RIDH http://ridh.org/

Affected Communities and their Right to Development Must be Central to the Treaty

The South African NGO the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) provided a submission for the second IGWG meeting on 24-28 October 2016 focusing on:

  1. The need to include the right to development as recognised in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights as a core principle of the binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights ("Treaty").

  2. Participation by affected communities in the Treaty development process in accordance with the right to development.

The LRC made the following specific recommendations to IGWG:

  • The human right to development, as contained in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights ("African Charter") and as given content by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights ("African Commission"), must be included as a founding principle and right in the Treaty, and expressly apply to all peoples.

  • The Treaty must require the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities as an ongoing requirement for development projects in the full meaning of the right, that is, both procedural and substantive. This includes the protection of peoples' right to full and timely disclosure of all relevant information prior to the approval of the project, of local decision making processes and the right to say no to a project.

  • The Treaty should expressly recognise customary land and natural resource rights of affected communities as ownership rights, whether documented or not, and provide for appropriate compensation and reparation where applicable.

  • Communities from around the globe who are, or might be, adversely affected by corporate activity must be at the centre of the development of the Treaty, including all associated discussions and negotiations.

Access the submission here: http://lrc.org.za/lrcarchive/images/pdfdownloads/LawPolicyReform/201609_ 30LRCSubmissionIGWG2ndSessionFINAL.pdf.

Sign petition to demand EU president Juncker to support UN treaty on businesses and human rights

From 24th of October the Human Rights Council will discuss for the second time the historic treaty that could hold transnational corporations and other business enterprises to account for corporate abuses under international human rights law. The UN treaty could protect people from human rights abuses by corporations and bring corporate actors to justice.

Unfortunately the European Union and its Member States aren’t so keen and have so far been boycotting the negotiations.

Help bring justice to victims of corporate abuse, and uphold the rights of ordinary people. Tell the European Commission that we need a binding treaty on business and human rights!

Sign the petition to President Juncker here: https://you.wemove.eu/campaigns/stop-corporate-abuse

This petition is supported so far by:

Global Justice Now, Progressio, Milieudefensie-Friends of the Earth Netherlands, SOMO, Les Amis de la Terre France, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, ActionAid France, Aitec, Ethique sur l'Etiquette, Sherpa, FIAN France, CIDSE, Supply Cha!nge, Friends of the Earth Europe, ITUC, WemoveEU, ActionAid, Nazemi (Czech Republic), BUND-Friends of the Earth Germany, Manitese, Maan ystävät- Friends of the Earth Finland

For more information and questions, please contact: anne.vanschaik@foeeurope.org

Options for shaping the UN Treaty on businesses and human rights

(  Photo: Chima Williams - Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Elisabet Pèriz - Tierra Digna Colombia)

As members of the Treaty Alliance, a global movement working towards the Treaty, in May CIDSE, Friends of the Earth Europe, SOMO and Bread for the World co-organised a legal seminar to discuss options for enforcement mechanisms for the Treaty linked to access to justice. The seminar brought together academics, NGOs, and members of grassroots organizations reporting cases of human rights violations by corporations in different continents. It also included an exchange with representatives of the EU institutions.

During the seminar, stories were shared about human right abuses and the legal and practical barriers to access to justice encountered in different countries. The case reported by Elisabet Pèriz from Tierra Digna, a study centre for social justice based in Colombia, exposed the Hydroelectrical Dam Project El Quimbo, constructed and exploited by ENGESA, a Colombian subsidiary of Enel (Italian multinational manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas). Likewise, Chima Williams, Head of Legal Resources of the Environmental Rights Action of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, illustrated two cases against Shell; one about gas flaring and the second over oil spills into farmlands and fishponds in Southern Nigeria.

These cases exemplified the challenges of transnational litigation and showed the inability of host states to enforce judgments, as well as the reluctance of home states to impose responsibility on parent corporations when, legally, this responsibility is expected to be shared by both, parents and subsidiaries. A UN Treaty could mean a major advancement in regulating extraterritorial obligations by establishing universal jurisdiction.

To read the full article follow this link: http://www.cidse.org/articles/business-and-human-rights/business-and-human-rights-frameworks/options-for-shaping-the-un-treaty-on-businesses-and-human-rights.htm

Click here to see Elisabet Pèriz's video interview on corporate impunity and lack of access to justice in Colombia.

 

IBFAN: 35 years of voluntary measures do not work in getting corporations accountable

IBFAN-GIFA - Published on November 25, 2015

On behalf of IBFAN, Mike Brady, Campaigns Coordinator at Baby Milk Action/IBFAN UK, took part in a panel discussion on /Challenges and Opportunities of a Treaty Addressing Corporate Abuses of Human Rights/on November 18, 2015. This event was jointly organized by ESCR-Net, Al-Haq, FIDH, Franciscans International and IBFAN-GIFA.

In front of a full room, Mike Brady first emphasized the need to put health before business interests and shed light on the consultation process, rather than negotiation with the business sector, which led to the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in 1981.

He then showed that, despite its integration in the human rights framework through the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Code is still widely violated by baby food companies because of a lack of implementation and enforcement at national level. Indeed, States that host baby food companies may be reluctant to put their corporations at a competitive disadvantage by taking more robust action than other countries. It stresses the need for an international mechanism that will help create a level playing field.

Mike Brady shared IBFAN’s 35-year long experience of working with voluntary mechanisms such as the Global Compact or the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which have ultimately failed in holding corporations accountable for their Code violations.

Therefore, when people say the UN Global Compact and OECD Guidelines make a binding treaty unnecessary, IBFAN disagrees. On the contrary, IBFAN believes that international binding norms are necessary to hold corporations fully accountable for their human rights violations, including for their violations of the Code.

IBFAN calls for increased support to the Treaty process at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation

IBFAN-GIFA - Published on November 25, 2015

On November 23, IBFAN-GIFA took part in a panel discussion organized by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation on the issue of/Working towards an enabling environment for the promotion and protection of the rights to water, land and food – Linking Global Advocacy with Local Action/. The other panelists were Maude Barlow, Canadian activist, former Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assenbly and Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and Jumanda Gakelebone, spokesperson of the First People of the Kalahari, a grassroots organization representing the Bushmen of Botswana.

IBFAN, Maude Barlow and the First People of the Kalahari are all laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Other laureates, namely Swami Agnivesh and Hans Herren/Biovision Foundation, were also attending the event as honour guests.

Maude Barlow first took the floor and shed light on the struggles encountered in her advocacy for human rights and the environment, pointing out free trade agreements and the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that they enshrine as main obstacles to the realization of human rights. She emphasized that the power of corporations to use ISDS mechanisms could strongly undermine any agreement on climate change if corporations decide to fight the necessary resulting regulatory changes. Therefore, she insisted on the need to include a reliable and clear ISDS carve-out in any future agreement in order to safeguard it against risks of ISDS lawsuits targeting climate change action by governments.

Jumanda Gakelebone then spoke about his struggle for the First People of the Kalahari that face discrimination and forced eviction of their lands. They do not have access to natural resources on their ancestral territories and a woman even died of thirst following the cut-off of water by the government. Hunting is also prohibited to indigenous people on their ancestral lands, while permits are delivered to private companies that sell them to wealthy tourists wanting to display a trophy. Jumanda Gakelebone then highlighted the dangers to which human rights activists from the community are exposed and the double discourse of the Botswana government which adheres to human rights instruments and declarations while it at the same time violates systematically the rights of indigenous people. Finally, Jumanda Gakelebone shared its concerns about the lack of human rights protection of indigenous people, leading to depletion of their natural resources by private companies that are allowed to operate in the country with impunity.

Speaking on behalf of IBFAN, Camille Selleger insisted on the indivisibility, strong interconnectedness and interdependence of human rights. She recalled States obligations to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in order to ensure the realization of child’s right to health child, noting that child’s right to health is also closely correlated with people’s access to safe drinking water and land. Therefore, the struggles for the right to land, the right to water and the right to an enabling environment for breastfeeding should not be seen as separate struggles. Indeed, all these rights are included in the concept of food sovereignty, which is a condition for the full realization of the right to adequate food. Camille Selleger then outlined IBFAN’s 35-year long experience that voluntary initiatives such as the Global Compact or the OECD Guidelines do not work in getting corporations accountable for their human rights violations and empahsized the need for a binding treaty to put an end to corporate impunity. She ended her speech calling all activists in the room to join the Treaty Alliance, a group of organizations, social movements and individuals advocating in support of elaboration process of a treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights.

At the end of the panel discussion, Swami Agnivesh and Hans Herren also shared their considerations about the need for promotion and protection of human rights.

Swami Agnivesh highlighted the need for human rights to include the very spiritual, sacred nature of humans and their environment, including land, air, water and animals. He called for a renewed commitment of the international community to put this sacred nature of humans and the environment above all laws and conventions as the fundamental principle that should lead any international process and development initiative. He invited all people to join hands beyond the dogmatism of any ideology or religion in order to thrive collectively. He finally called the participants to collaborate with his organization Sarva Dharma Samvaad which advocates for equal respect for all religions in the perspective of optimal human development.

Hans Herren stated that human rights are indeed crucial but that most governments do not fulfil their obligations in this regard. He denounced the current trend of governments to initiate public-private partnerships with businesses instead of taking measures to ensure the full realization of human rights. He also stressed the role that each individual should consciously play when it comes to electing representatives or consuming products. He finally noted that Sustainable Development Goals represent a great opportunity for human development and called all partners in the room to support them.

Syngenta condenada: Justicia responsabiliza a la empresa por muerte de Sin Tierra en Brasil

La Via Campesina - Publicado el Viernes, 20 Noviembre 2015 00:01


El ataque ocurrido en 2007 resultó en el asesinato del trabajador
rural Keno y en lesiones y heridas a otros tres campesinos. La
condena a Syngenta es bien vista por los movimientos sociales en
razón de la dificultad de responsabilizar a las empresas por las
violaciones a los derechos que las mismas cometen.

(Paraná 19 de Noviembre de 2015)La empresa suiza productora de transgénicos y agrotóxicos, Syngenta, fue judicialmente responsabilizada por el asesinato del trabajador rural Valmir Mota de Oliveira (mejor conocido como Keno) y por la tentativa de asesinato de Isabel do Nascimento de Souza. Los dos eran integrantes de La Vía Campesina y fueron víctimas del ataque de guardias privadas armadas en 2007.

La resolución, emitida por el juez de derecho Pedro Ivo Moreira, de la Primera Instancia en lo Civil de la localidad de Cascavel (Estado de Paraná, Brasil), fue publicada en el Diario Oficial del Estado este miércoles 17 de noviembre. La sentencia determina que la empresa indemnice a los familiares de Keno y a la víctima Isabel por los daños morales y materiales que provocó. La acción fue juzgada el año 2010, como intento de obtener respuestas del Estado en cuanto a la responsabilidad de la corporación Syngenta por el ataque perpetrado por la milicia armada privada.

Esta resolución es vista con buenos ojos por los movimientos sociales y organizaciones de derechos humanos, ya que la responsabilidad de las empresas que cometen violaciones a los derechos humanos es un desafío de orden global. "Actualmente, las empresas transnacionales tienen gran libertad de actuación transnacional, pero no hay normas ni mecanismos nacionales e internacionales suficientes para obligarlas a respetar los derechos humanos o para responsabilizarlas en caso de violaciones. La condena a Syngenta, en este caso, es una excepción a la regla", explica el abogado popular de Tierra de Derechos, Fernando Prioste, que acompañó el caso.

Sobre la decisión

El juez reconoció que el hecho ocurrido en la estación experimental de la empresa Syngenta fue una verdadera masacre. En su decisión, afirma que "decir que lo ocurrido fue una confrontación es cerrar los ojos hacia la realidad, pues [...] no hay duda de que el hecho, en verdad, fue una masacre con ropaje de reintegración de la posesión". Con eso, la versión presentada por la Syngenta, fue rechazada por el Poder Judicial. La empresa alegaba que el ataque ocurrido en 2007 sería resultado de una confrontación entre guardias privados e integrantes de La Vía Campesina.

En su defensa, Syngenta reconoció la ilegalidad de la acción de la guardia privada, así como el cuño ideológico de la acción contra La Vía Campesina y el MST. La empresa afirmó que "más que la protección de esta o aquella hacienda, queda claro que la guardia privada tenía por objetivo la defensa de una posición ideológica que contraponía aquella del MST [Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra], de modo a propagar la idea de que la cada acción corresponde una reacción". Con eso, la transnacional intentaba eludir su responsabilidad, alegando que el ataque no fue realizado por la empresa por ella contratada, sino por una milicia al mando de los hacendados.

Sin embargo, en su decisión, el juez reconoció que "la mala elección en el servicio tercerizado de provisión de seguridad, así como el financiamiento indirecto de las actividades ilícitas, constituye hecho generador de responsabilidad civil". Además, reprobó con vehemencia el ataque realizado al afirmar que "por más reprobable e ilegítima que fuese la invasión a la propiedad, no sería apropiado actuar por cuenta propia, imponiendo pena de muerte a los ocupantes, sino buscar los medios legales de solución al conflicto, después de todo, la ley considera delito el ejercicio arbitrario de sus propias razones". Por lo tanto, la decisión judicial que condenó a Syngenta no solo afirma el cuño ideológico de la acción miliciana, sino que también vincula a la empresa a esa acción.

La decisión judicial todavía no es definitiva. Syngenta, a través de su defensor, Renne Ariel Dotti, podrá recurrir al Tribunal de Justicia del Estado de Paraná. Para el abogado popular de Tierra de Derechos, Fernando Prioste, se espera que el Tribunal mencionado mantenga la decisión para restablecer la verdad sobre los hechos ocurridos en octubre de 2007. "Las pruebas son contundentes contra la empresa", apuntó. "Una eventual absolución de Syngenta significaría la complicidad del sistema de justicia con las masacres, como lo ocurrido en este caso".

Manifestantes protestan por la muerte de Keno en la sede de la empresa, en Suiza, el año 2008

Excepción a la regla

Consultada sobre la decisión, Isabel Nascimento dos Santos dijo estar feliz, más allá de la reparación económica. Gravemente herida durante el ataque ideado por la Syngenta en 2007, la agricultora destacó el reconocimiento, por parte de la Justicia, de la responsabilidad de la empresa en el caso.

"Ahora se trata de levantar la cabeza, intentando olvidar un poco el sufrimiento que pasamos" ¿La lucha terminó? "¡Jamás! Vamos hacia adelante, dando continuidad también al trabajo de Keno".

El representante del MST en la región de Cascavel, Eduardo Rodrigues, destaca la importancia de la decisión. Según Rodrigues, es común la impunidad de las grandes empresas que violan los derechos, al mismo tiempo en que es frecuente que integrantes del movimiento campesino sean criminalizados por su lucha de oposición al modelo del agronegocio. "El ataque no sucedió sin el conocimiento de la multinacional", denunció el agricultor. "Ellos no dieron solo el apoyo institucional, sino también el apoyo financiero y la logística".

Rodrigues dijo desear que esa decisión sea extendida a otros casos de responsabilidad de las empresas por los ataques que perpetran. "Espero que esa decisión pueda fortalecer nuestra lucha, dando visibilidad a nuestros compañeros".

Los muchos obstáculos existentes para lograr que las empresas respeten los derechos humanos y sean responsabilizadas por las violaciones que cometen, hizo que la Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) pasase a debatir el establecimiento de un tratado internacional vinculante que cree mecanismos de prevención, reparación y responsabilidad en el tema de empresas y derechos humanos.

El grupo de trabajo de la ONU que desarrolla actividades para el establecimiento de este tratado, visitará Brasil en el mes de diciembre próximo. Se espera que los representantes de la ONU puedan utilizar el caso de la condena contra Syngenta como referencia para la rendición de cuenta de las grandes empresas que cometen violaciones a los derechos humanos a través de empresas tercerizadas.

Sobre el caso

El día 21 de octubre de 2007, cerca de 40 pistoleros de la empresa "NF Seguridad", atacaron el campamento de La Vía Campesina localizado en el campo de experimento de transgénicos de la transnacional Syngenta, en Santa Tereza do Oeste (Estado de Paraná). El local había sido reocupado por alrededor de 150 integrantes de La Vía Campesina y del Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra (MST) esa mañana.

Los ocupantes denunciaban la realización de experimentos ilegales con maíz transgénico en zona de amortiguamiento del Parque Nacional de Iguazú. Los integrantes de La Vía Campesina también buscaban denunciar a las empresas de biotecnología que actúan de forma a imponer un modelo de agricultura que genera daños ambientales con la utilización indiscriminada de transgénicos y agrotóxicos, de modo que invisibilizan la producción de alimentos saludables por los campesinos, pueblos indígenas y pueblos y comunidades tradicionales.

Una milicia fuertemente armada de la empresa "NF Seguridad", invadió el local disparando en dirección a las personas que ocupaban el espacio. Según informaciones de La Vía Campesina, la acción había sido promovida por Syngenta, que utilizaba servicios de "NF Seguridad", en conjunto con la Sociedad Rural de la Región Oeste (SRO), y el Movimiento de los Productores Rurales (MPR), vinculado al agronegocio. Indicios apuntan a que la empresa de seguridad sería una fachada y que contrataba guardias de forma ilegal para las operaciones de ataque. Además de Keno, los tiradores dispararon contra Isabel e hirieron a otros tres agricultores.

Poseedora del 19 % del mercado de agroquímicos y tercera empresa con mayor lucro en la comercialización de semillas en el mundo, rozando a Monsanto y la Dupont, Syngenta, junto a otras transnacionales, agrava el escenario de violencia en el campo con la imposición de un modelo de agricultura basado en el monocultivo, en la súper explotación del trabajador, en la degradación ambiental, en la utilización de agrotóxicos y en la apropiación privada de recursos naturales y genéticos.

En el área en que ocurrieron los hechos, actualmente funciona el Centro de Investigaciones en Agroecología Valmir Mota de Oliveira, "Keno".

Sobre el tema de la responsabilidad de empresas por violaciones de derechos humanos, Tierra de Derechos desarrolló unaguía http://terradedireitos.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Guia-transnacionais-Versao-Final-em-PDF.pdf para auxiliar en la evaluación sobre posibilidades de litigar contra empresas en el ámbitointernacional.

Film - ‘The Land Grab; Kalangala Uganda’

The National Association of professional Environmentalists (NAPE) is pleased to share a film on the impacts of Land grabbing on ecosystems and communities in Kalangala-Uganda.

Film - ‘The Land Grab; Kalangala Uganda’

The film explores the local struggles of communities in Kalangala resisting land grab on their lands, and exposes the true costs of land grab for palm oil on communities', livelihoods and ecosystems.

Additional video: https://youtu.be/6gssQPR8oWs

NAPE has had positive feedback about the film and has featured on local news in Uganda including the NBS and Nation( NTV) national televisions in Uganda.

Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IMw5v6lmFs

Nigeria palm oil land grab exposes need for human rights treaty

A new report on palm oil land grabs in Nigeria by Asia’s leading agribusiness group exposes the need for a binding treaty to regulate corporate human rights abuses globally, says Friends of the Earth International.

Global palm oil trader Wilmar International Ltd. (WLIL.SI) has come under scrutiny for a large-scale land acquisition in Cross River State, Nigeria where it destroyed areas of High Conservation Value, including community food-producing areas and water sources essential to local communities, according to a report released today. [1]

The new report, Exploitation and empty promises: Wilmar’s Nigerian landgrab, uses first-person testimonies, satellite maps, and Wilmar’s own filings with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to demonstrate that the company failed to gain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of communities directly affected by its operations; failed to produce adequate Environmental and Social Impact Assessments; and failed to live up to promises of infrastructure development and benefit sharing, despite these promises being a primary incentive for local communities to allow the company to operate in Cross River State.

"It is a disgrace that Wilmar is painting a picture to its financiers and buyers that they have improved their operations, when the reality on the ground shows that they are still bulldozing away people's lives,” said Godwin Ojo, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria. “Wilmar should address these evictions and human rights violations or pack and go."

Friends of the Earth International and other activists from the Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and the Treaty Alliance, a growing global alliance of civil society groups, are campaigning for a legally binding international treaty to prevent and remedy corporate human rights abuses during a UN gathering in Geneva. [2]

The treaty is supported by many diverse governments including those of Ecuador, South Africa, Indonesia, India, China as well as the Vatican and by more than 800 organisations, including the UN Human Rights Council.

Existing voluntary guidelines on business and human rights do not provide access to justice and remedy for victims of corporate abuse, according to Friends of the Earth International, which advocates for a legally binding system to put human rights above the corporate privileges.

“Voluntary codes of conduct like Wilmar’s simply do not hold sufficient weight to solve problems of the company’s own making. The company’s failure to respect human rights in Nigeria is yet another example that transnational corporations like Wilmar cannot be trusted to police themselves,” said Anne van Schaik, Sustainable Finance Campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe.

The report cites academic and community-based research showing that Wilmar’s Nigerian operations may displace subsistence food production by thousands of local farmers.

“Wilmar’s Nigerian landgrab is a prime example of how leading palm oil producers – even those like Wilmar that are in the global spotlight – exploit vulnerable communities and failures in governance to grab land to fuel their profits,” said Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests campaigner with Friends of the Earth-US.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Godwin Ojo, executive director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action (and member of the executive committee of Friends of the Earth International): + 234 813 520 8465 or gloryline2000@yahoo.co.uk

Jeff Conant, International Forests Campaigner, Friends of the Earth-US: +1 510 900 0016 or email JConant@foe.org

Anne van Schiek, Sustainable Finance Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe: +31 6 243 43968 or anne.vanschaik@foeeurope.org Read the report http://webiva-downton.s3.amazonaws.com/877/22/9/6057/FOEExploitationAndEmptyLOWRES_rev.pdf

Summary http://webiva-downton.s3.amazonaws.com/877/f7/4/6087/Nigeriareportsummary-lowres.pdf

Image: Farmers protesting Wilmar’s destruction of their lands, near Ibogo Village, Cross River State. May 2015. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria

EU/CELAC Days of Mobilization, building the way toward a binding Treaty

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On the occasion of the official EU/CELAC Heads of States Summit (10-11 June) which brings together 61 Heads of States from the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean, CIDSE joined several civil society organizations and social movement from both continents who came together during the "Days of Mobilization" (8-10 June) to reclaim sovereignty against corporate-led trade and to discuss possible alternatives.

While European and Latin-American presidents were discussing migration, climate change and possible new Free Trade Agreements (FTA) between both regions, civil society organisations gathered to discuss alternatives to the neoliberal agenda and more specifically how an internationally binding treaty on transnational companies (TNC) could ensure that States effectively protects Human Rights, but also that companies are made legally responsible to respect them. For cases of Human Rights violation, a binding treaty could also help to ensure that victims have an access to remedy.

The Days of Mobilization started on Monday 8th June with a public debate together with representatives of Trade Unions; representatives of NGOs working on the relations between the EU and Latin America; some Members of the European Parliament and the Head of the Ecuador Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva. For CIDSE and other Brussels based networks working on Latin America, it was the opportunity to launch a short animated videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-kkwHpCe-A which explains how a trade relationship - mainly based on the extraction of raw materials - is contributing to depletion of non-renewable natural resources, global warming and social conflicts.

Link to the video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-kkwHpCe-A

On the second day, the participants had to divide into two parallel sessions. One was dedicated to "Reclaiming Peoples Sovereignty for Access to Justice" and the other to "New generation of Free Trade Agreements and its impacts in Latin America and Europe". In this session, participants widely recognized that the benefits of FTAs between EU and Latin America are increasingly ending up in the hands of a small group of privileged people instead of serving the common good. In the session dedicated to "Peoples Access to Justice", the audience had the chance to listen to several testimonies highlighting the complicity of TNCs and corrupted States in many Human Rights abuses and environmental crimes. The Brazilian organization MAB (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens - Movement of People Affected by Dams), partner of several CIDSE members, explained how the government's < green energy > policy is affecting several indigenous communities still living in voluntary isolation from the western world. The session continued with civil society movements explaining what kind of alternatives they have been experimenting. MAB told the public about when they brought the case in front of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal in Madrid and how this helped raise awareness within the Brazilian society on the impacts of so called "green energy".

The third and last day of the Days of Mobilization was also the opening for the official EU/CELAC summit when all Heads of States gathered in Brussels and, as usual during official EU summits, the city was drowned in the roar of the helicopters in charge of the security. For civil society members, the day started with a session on the UN transnational corporations Treaty as a new potential avenue for justice. During the opening session, panellist highlighted the worldwide asymmetrical judicial system. While some communities have been reclaiming justice for years, a growing number of TNCs are using the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) to sue developing countries for lost benefits due to social and environmental laws. Panellists also recalled that though some countries have ratified the convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), many governments don't respect this convention that provides indigenous population the right to a free prior and informed consent before the start of any kind of project that might affect their way of life. On the contrary, States too often collude with private sector interests at the detriment of affected communities, and the examples abound:

  • In Guatemala, the opening of the Marlin mine was accompanied by the militarisation of the province. Local communities are now more divided and violence against women has increased. Many feel cheated because the jobs promised by the companies are inexistent while the land and the water is polluted.

  • In Ecuador, the 22 year long legal case against Chevron-Texaco for the massive oil spill in the Amazon still have not been resolved, partly because of obstacles concerning jurisdiction and international legal cooperation between Ecuador and the United States. An international binding Treaty on TNCs could help the victims to access justice.

  • In South Africa, the government is accused of complicity in the massacre of mining workers who declared strike to reclaim higher wages and better working conditions in 2012.

  • In Honduras, Human Right defenders who reclaim access to the land of their ancestors are criminalized and extra judicial killings are legion.

  • In Mozambique, Vale, a Brazilian Mining TNC, is extracting coal at the expenses of local population who no longer can access arable land and clean water.

The cases above are just a few named in the room but they are enough to highlight the urgent need for a binding treaty to control the impacts of TNCs. Participants highlighted that individual countries often don't have the legal instruments to address the issue of crimes with extraterritorial dimensions. Many governments around the world might be complicit in this situation but those who would like to act miss the legislative tools to enforce their will.

The abundance of examples needs to be more visible in order to enhance the pressure on governments from the EU and Latin America to join the first session of the UN Human Rights Council open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, whose mandate shall be to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

The closing activity of the Days of Mobilization was an "Impunity Tour in the EU Quarter in Brussels" during which Civil Society Members from both continents could walk around in the world's second largest lobby city (Washington DC being the first city in the world in terms of lobby presence). It was again the opportunity to expose the financial, political and judicial power of multinational corporations.

CIDSE, June 2015