1408-1407 The UN Human Rights Council’s Resolution for an International Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations


On 26 June the Human Rights Council of the United Nations adopted a resolution establishing a working group that will develop an “international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights”.  The resolution was introduced by Ecuador and South Africa and was finally approved by 20 votes in favour, 14 against and 13 abstentions.


The protagonists of this resolution consider that there is a mismatch in legal protection between companies and the victims of harmful corporate activities. Transnational corporations can resort to a number of binding laws to protect their interests while victims of corporate impunity can only appeal to voluntary norms to protect their interests.   


This can be considered as a significant step forward in the enforcement of human rights for all TNC working abroad. However, all European countries represented on the Human Rights Council voted against the resolution and regrettably have stated that they would not participate in the working group. They argued that legislative efforts have already been undertaken by the EU and its member states in this field and they believe that national action plans are the way forward.


However, the one should not exclude the other: national laws and international HR-instruments can and should be mutually reinforcing, especially since boundaries in international business have become blurred and the companies’ activities might have negative human rights impacts on communities. In the current globalized world economy, transnational companies are influential players; capital travels easily across borders and increased international trade would be fine with more international regulation preventing business-related human rights abuses.


Still, there are numerous violations of human rights by TNCs that remain unpunished in developing countries. Still countless people are evicted, lose their livelihoods and or have their environment destroyed for corporate land grabbing, mining or oil drilling. The newly established working group should take the voices of these victims into account when developing the international legally binding instrument to ensure respect for human rights by businesses.




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