Collective Advocacy

Corporate accountability issues are global in nature, with concrete impacts at the local and national levels, and different challenges connected to national-level businesses, State-corporate partnerships, and increasing transnational corporate activity. In this context, the Corporate Accountability Working Group and allies work collectively to actively strengthen the international human rights framework on corporate accountability. An overview of their activities related to the development of an international binding treaty on corporate regulation is set out below.

CAWG action at the 3rd IGWG session (2017)

From 23-27 October 2017, the IGWG will meet for its 3rd session in Geneva, to discuss the draft text of the treaty. In preparation, ESCR-Net members and allies are exchanging national and regional advocacy efforts through online calls, and spaces including the Asia Pacific Feminist Forum (7-9 September 2017) and the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability General Assembly (17-19 October 2017). A dozen representatives of CAWG from different regions – including social movements, indigenous peoples groups and NGOs – will participate in the IGWG session in Geneva to represent collective CAWG positions and coordinate advocacy with the Treaty Alliance, building on CAWG’s 2016 collective submission to the IGWG and current advocacy priorities of protecting against corporate capture, ensuring an intersectional gender analysis of the draft text, and strengthening the participation and leadership of human rights defenders and affected communities in corporate accountability debates. 

CAWG input into CESCR’s new general comment on economic, social and cultural rights in the context of business activities (2016-2017)

In 2017, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted its new General Comment No. 24 on State obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) with respect to business activities. The General Comment provides specific guidance to the currently 165 States who are party to the ICESCR, concerning the application of their ESCR obligations in the context of business activities. CAWG members participated actively throughout the initial stages and development of the General Comment, including providing preliminary input, communicating developments, coordinating member activity at the Day of General Discussion, and presenting an oral intervention that reiterated member priorities as highlighted in CAWG’s 2016 collective submission to the IGWG. The General Comment can be understood as a significant component of the evolving international human rights framework on corporate accountability, and is a complementary and useful building block towards the proposed treaty.

CAWG action at the 2nd IGWG session (2016)

In October 2016, the IGWG met for its 2nd session in Geneva, focusing on the scope and content of the proposed treaty. Representatives from CAWG members participated in the session, engaging with government representatives on the basis of the CAWG collective submission and keeping members and allies around the world updated on daily developments and the progress of the treaty negotiations. Read the official IGWG report of the session here.

CAWG action at the 1st IGWG session (2015)

In July 2015, the IGWG met for its 1st session in Geneva, to set the programme of work and start negotiations. Representatives from CAWG members participated in the session, engaging with government representatives in line with CAWG priorities for the treaty content and keeping members and allies around the world updated on daily developments and the progress of the treaty negotiations. Read the official IGWG report of the session here.​

ESCR-Net and FIDH joint Treaty Initiative project (2015-2016)

From 2015-2016, ESCR-Net and FIDH jointly coordinated the Treaty Initiative project, with the aim of achieving four objectives: to ensure that members – particularly grassroots groups from affected communities – are able to engage in the UN treaty-making process; to facilitate the collective development of resource materials by members for use in their own advocacy; to generate advocacy structures in different regions that support efforts to advance regulation and remedy at all levels; and to support civil society groups in the Treaty Alliance, by producing opportunities to engage in consultations, circulating resources to allies, and encouraging more human rights organisations to engage in domestic, regional and international advocacy. To achieve these objectives ESCR-Net and FIDH coordinated three-day in-person consultations in the following regions: Asia-Pacific (Chiang Mai, May 2015), Africa and the Middle East (Nairobi, October 2015) and Latin America (Mexico City, May 2016). We also sought written inputs and conducted several online thematic consultations. Altogether, over 150 human rights organisations and grassroots groups articulated their priorities for the Treaty over the course of this project, culminating in regional statements on corporate accountability, ESCR-Net and FIDH’s 10 Key Proposals on the proposed treaty and CAWG’s collective submission to the IGWG. ESCR-Net and FIDH also supported the development and maintenance of regional advocacy platforms in Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America, as well as at the national level in several countries.

CAWG engagement with the Treaty Alliance (2014 – present)

In 2014, ESCR-Net co-founded the Treaty Alliance to help coordinate communication and advocacy across diverse human rights, environment, development, progressive religious and other social justice organizations. The Treaty Alliance has issued a series of joint positions open for endorsement, developed advocacy materials and facilitated updates from the treaty process to advocates around the world.

CAWG publication on States’ extraterritorial obligations (2014)

In 2014, CAWG launched a practitioners’ guide to support the interpretation and application of States’ extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) in the context of corporate human rights violations, called “Global Economy, Global Rights – A Practitioners’ Guide for interpreting human rights obligations in the global economy”. This resource brings together a body of jurisprudence emanating from UN human rights treaty bodies in response to the challenges posed by the transnational spread of corporate activity. It provides practical guidance to States regarding their human rights obligations outside their national territorial borders and has contributed to the development of this issue within treaty negotiations. This work builds on the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligation of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.