Member submissions advocate for strong UN Committee guidance on ESCR and business activities

Publish Date: 
Thursday, February 16, 2017

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN CESCR) is currently developing a General Comment on State obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) with respect to business activities. Over recent years, the Corporate Accountability Working Group (CAWG) and others have encouraged the creation of this General Comment as an important way to strengthen corporate accountability through the provision of a guiding framework to states regarding ESCR and business activities. 

At the 2015 ESCR-Net Peoples’ Forum, and again at the 2016 ESCR-Net Global Strategy Meeting, CAWG agreed to engage collectively in the process to develop this General Comment. Initially, members developed a paper to highlight and develop key issues and act as a guide for subsequent interventions with the UN CESCR. Once the UN CESCR produced its first draft of the General Comment, CAWG encouraged members to consider written submissions and coordinated strategy discussions. The following 15 ESCR-Net members sent comments to the UN CESCR – see links below – reflecting a range of overlapping priorities for this new and significant clarification of obligations under the ICESCR:

On 21 February 2017, CAWG, represented by many of these members and the ESCR-Net secretariat’s Legal Director, joined a Day of General Discussion in Geneva on the draft General Comment. All ESCR-Net members were encouraged to review the program of the day, watch the discussions live via webcast, and comment via social media using the hashtags #UN_CESCR#StopCorporateAbuse and #corporatecapture.

CAWG continues to emphasize the importance of a coordinated approach by UN treaty bodies and agencies to reinforce state obligations – both domestic and extraterritorial – in connection with the practices and impact of increasingly powerful and often transnational private actors. CAWG also recognizes this General Comment as a potentially important building block for the future UN treaty on human rights and business. Priorities for the proposed treaty were outlined in a collective CAWG submission to the UN Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG - composed of states guiding the treaty process), in October 2016.