About the proposed Treaty

Around the world, ESCR-Net members and others are confronting widespread and systemic corporate human rights abuses. This trend is intensified by lack of effective regulation in both the home and host States of corporations and a failure to ensure effective access to remedy and accountability. For more than a decade, ESCR-Net members have been taking collective action to advance the development of a clear and comprehensive international human rights framework on corporate accountability, including an international binding treaty on human rights and business.

In 2013, at ESCR-Net’s Peoples’ Forum on Human Rights and Business, members outlined demands for a human rights-based approach to corporate regulation in a joint civil society statement that became the first Statement of the Treaty Alliance.The Statement called for the development of an intergovernmental working group focused on developing an international legally binding instrument to address corporate human rights abuses and ensure that effective accountability and redress mechanisms are available for affected people. The Statement gained the support of over 1000 signatories, including more than 600 organisations and 400 individual advocates from over 100 countries. ESCR-Net members and allies mobilized actions in over 20 capital cities and engaged with State representatives in Geneva. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council passed Resolution 26/9, which established an open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) with a mandate to develop an international legally binding human rights treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Since that time, ESCR-Net members have engaged in a range of collective action to advance the development of a robust treaty, and to use the treaty process more broadly to encourage national, regional and international action to strengthen corporate accountability. Such action has included: the Treaty Initiative project and regional strategy meetings; collective advocacy at the IGWG sessions; engagement in the process towards a new CESCR general comment on ESCR in the context of business activities; and advocacy to reinforce the extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) of States. Currently, members and allies are preparing for the 3rd session of the IGWG (Geneva, 23-27 October), which will focus on a draft text of the proposed treaty.

This advocacy builds on more than a decade of collective action by the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group (CAWG), which has consistently insisted on the central role of affected communities, social movements and grassroots groups in shaping effective regulation, remedy and responses at all levels to abuses and violations of human rights involving corporate actors. CAWG has also reinforced necessary attention to the different and disproportionate impacts of corporate abuses on women and other groups resisting marginalization and oppression. In addition, CAWG and ESCR-Net have increasingly confronted the root causes of abuses, challenging corporate capture of government institutions and promoting alternatives to the current dominant economic model that prioritizes profit over human rights and environmental protection.