Call to EU: stop stalling on the UN binding treaty to ensure that businesses respect human rights

An international binding treaty for business and human rights is needed in order to better protect environmental and human rights defenders worldwide. On July 17, the United Nations published a revised draft of this treaty. Now the EU needs to stop stalling on the UN Binding Treaty to ensure that businesses respect human rights, says a coalition of European civil society groups, among which IUCN NL.

Header photo: European Union Flag (c) Markus Spiske via Unsplash

Every week, more than three people are killed because they stand up for nature. An even higher number faces threats, intimidation and physical violence on a daily basis. “The victims often face many barriers to justice. The international binding treaty will ensure that companies can be held accountable when they cause abuses. This will strengthen the position of environmental defenders across the globe,” says Antoinette Sprenger, Senior Expert Environmental Justice at IUCN NL.

Historic opportunity

Since 2014, a special working group of the United Nations gathers annually to discuss the creation of the treaty. The next formal negotiation session takes place in October 2019 in Geneva. “This is a historic opportunity to address the fragmentation of international law and change the current asymmetry of power between people, the planet and corporations, by regulating business activities in international human rights law,” Sprenger states.

Numerous calls

Regrettably, the EU has so far engaged reluctantly in this important international process, despite numerous calls from the European Parliament and from over 580,000 European citizens that it should do so. In the Netherlands, over 30.000 people called for Dutch government action on the treaty.

Determined, proactive EU engagement needed  

“The revised draft presented by the UN addresses many of the EU’s previous concerns,” Sprenger states. For example, by building on the existing UN Principles on Business and Human Rights and defining which business activities should be covered. “Together with other European civil society groups, we therefore call on the EU to conduct a thorough analysis of this revised draft. That should build the basis for a determined, proactive EU engagement in the upcoming negotiation session in Geneva.”

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The declaration was signed by the following parties:

ActionAid International, CAFOD (England & Wales), CCFD-Terre Solidaire (France), Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), CIDSE – International family of Catholic social justice organisations, Clean Clothes Campaign International Office, Commission Justice et Paix Belgique, Ekumenická akademie (Czech Republic), FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), Friends of the Earth Finland, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Global Policy Forum, IUCN NL, Latinamerikagrupperna/Solidaridad Suecia-América Latina (SAL)/Solidarity Sweden-Latin America, Mani Tese (Italy), NaZemi (Czech Republic), Sherpa, SÜDWIND-Institute, TROCA – Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo, Trócaire

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Antoinette Sprenger
Senior Expert Environmental Justice