Join Us to End Corporate Impunity

Publish Date: 
Monday, May 25, 2020

Call for a Strong Binding Treaty to Regulate Corporate Power

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, ESCR-Net members called on States to "support negotiations for an international legally binding instrument to regulate corporate power." On 29 May and 25 June, social movements and civil society organizations, as well as States, will have an opportunity to participate virtually in  informal consultation sessions as part of an ongoing intergovernmental process to fulfill UN Human Rights Council resolution 26/9 to create a legally binding instrument that would regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Watch our call:

Watch video in Spanish here

The meaningful participation of social movements and civil society organizations, as well as States, will strengthen the text of the revised draft legally binding instrument on business activities and human rights released on 16 July 2019. The draft will serve as the basis of a substantive intergovernmental negotiations that will be held in October 2020, in Geneva.

The call highlights that big corporations and the wealthiest one percent have captured many of our government institutions and lobbied for policies that violate our rights and harm our environment. Corporations have also captured several multilateral processes to prevent the regulation of business activity. In time of crisis and beyond, we need new political and economic models that will prioritize human rights over profit-making and allow us to hold corporations accountable.

How you can join us:

  • Register here to participate in the informal consultation and advocate for a stronger legally binding instrument – (first consultation on 29 May, second consultation on 25 June).
  • Share our video on social media including the hashtags #EndCorporateImpunity #BindingTreaty #ReinventtheNormal
  • Follow the Global Movement for a #BindingTreaty here: @TreatyAlliance @ESCRNet

Key demands

Last October, during the fifth session of the intergovernmental negotiation session on the Treaty, several members of the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group – in addition to members of the Women and ESCR Working Group – were present in Geneva to advocate with States and delivered key demands for a stronger binding treaty. While ESCR-Net members noted some improvements in the revised draft Treaty echoing points from our collective position papers issued last year in reaction to the zero Draft, members identified several gaps that must be addressed to ensure the full protection and promotion of the rights of people.

Necessary changes to the Treaty text:

  • Noting the broadened scope of the revised Draft Treaty to include all businesses, it is vital that a strong focus remain on transnational corporations (TNCs) operating through global value chains in order to ensure that the revised Treaty is able to hold those corporations accountable for human rights violations or abuses.
  • As it relates to the situation of human rights defenders, the Treaty must ensure consistency with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders to avoid gaps and foster harmonization with the spirit of the declarations.
  • The Treaty must include guarantees of access to information for victims and affected individuals or communities to prevent corporate abuses and violations prior to the commencement of and during the business activity as well as in the remedy process.
  • The Treaty must guarantee the right to “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” of indigenous peoples (FPIC). Consent and not mere consultation should be maintained in the Draft as a key principle as it offers a broader protective measure for marginalized communities beyond mere consultation. It advances within the broader FPIC principle protection of community values and consensus building. Consent must be continuous - with information provided at every stage of the project for subsequent consent.
  • A non-binary gender, youth and children lenses should be adopted and streamlined throughout the text. Most significantly, the text must enable the appointment of gender experts in the Committee that oversees the implementation of the treaty.
  • The Treaty must adopt stronger safeguards against corporate capture (undue corporate influence). It is fundamental to protect the integrity of the policymaking space, its participants, and outcomes from the interests of these corporations—including any potential, perceived, or actual conflicts of interest. It is imperative to develop good governance measures that safeguard against corporate political interference at the national, international, and intergovernmental levels, whether in the current discussions that pertain to the Treaty’s content, negotiations, implementation, and monitoring.
  • To ensure prevention of human rights abuses and violations by corporate activities in conflict-affected areas, fragile and post conflict States, mandatory enhanced due diligence is necessary and must include a requirement not to pursue or start operations in certain situations in which no due diligence can guarantee that there will not be complicity or contribution to violations that in some cases may amount to international crimes. It is important also to introduce more urgent and immediate preventive measures, divestment, and disengagement policies, to avoid corporate involvement in and/or contribution to human rights violations in their activities and relationships.
  • The Treaty must ensure the responsibility of the parent company for the actions of companies in its value and supply chain with whom it has a business relationship – whether contractual or not.
  • The Treaty must reflect the primacy of human rights obligations over those under bilateral or multilateral trade, investment, or other agreements. Reference to economic and trade agreements is weaker in the revised Draft and can be further strengthened to ensure human rights obligations always take precedence over trade agreements.
  • States must take additional steps and exercise a higher standard of care to prevent and protect from abuses and violations related to State-owned enterprises or in areas where the State is an economic actor.
  • Extraterritorial obligations can benefit from clearer language articulating responsibilities of home and host States. A revised Treaty text must reintroduce language from the zero Draft explicitly mentioning the obligation to provide remedies and to comply with due diligence duties in both home and host states of offending companies.

    >> For more updates and information about the consultations, please go to this link.

Video credits and acknowledgements:

Akhona Mehlo – Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), South Africa

Alejandra Scampini – Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER), Mexico / Uruguay

Ana Maria Suarez-Franco – FIAN International, Global

Ananya Ramani – Manushya Foundation, Thailand

Bobby Ramakant – Citizens News Service, India

Debbie Stothard – ALTSEAN-Burma, Thailand

Emilie Pradichit – Manushya Foundation, Thailand

Felogene Anumo – Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Global

Francisco Rocael – Consejo de Pueblos Wuxhtaj, Guatemala

Kwesi Arnold – Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda

Maha Abdallah – ESCR-Net Board Member, Global

Manja Bayang – Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines

Nuriya Oswald – Al Mezan Center For Human Rights, Palestine

Radiatu Sheriff – Natural Resource Women Platform, Liberia

Raphaela Lopes – Justiça Global, Brazil

Ryan Schlief – International Accountability Project, Global

Valentina Camacho – Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, Colombia

Video Editor: Titi Vieragallo
Interpretation: Carlota Fluxa

>> For more information, please contact Mona Sabella (Corporate Accountability Working Group Coordinator) at
>> For media requests, please contact Esther de la Rosa at

>> Related resources: Brief by CAWG in response to the COVID-19 crisis: Protect Peoples not Corporate Elites