20 October 2018, Geneva: Talks concluded yesterday evening following the discussion of substantive proposals. States acknowledged the dialogue focused on the content of the zero draft of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, and took note of inputs received by a record attendance.

Representatives from 94 countries and around 400 civil society organizations delegates, including Friends of the Earth International representatives from 20 countries, converged in Geneva for the fourth session of the Intergovernmental working group (IGWG4) which resulted in a confirmed fifth session of negotiations based on a revised version of the treaty draft.

Representatives of peoples affected by systematic human right violations perpetrated by transnational corporations, detailed the threats to their lives and livelihoods in their struggle for justice. These are the very people who are reworking human rights law from the grassroots.

Friends of the Earth International will remain actively engaged, working with social movements and civil society members of the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, national coalitions, forming part of a growing Treaty Alliance, and other relevant actors including parliamentarians and local authorities around the world, to continue submitting constructive proposals.

As Lucia Ortiz, Economic Justice Program Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International explains,

“We will continue to actively participate, and look forward to future sessions needed to fulfil the Resolution 26/9 mandate – to regulate, with international Human Rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. It was disappointing that the IGWG Chair recommendations failed to reference the vital debates from the last four years, such as those on the 2017 Elements Paper, or the lack of constructive participation of some states that could not yet associate with the negotiations at this advanced stage which progressed from procedure to substance. What is essentially needed to regulate big business controlling complex global chains of production are concrete rules for that business, based on direct obligations for transnational corporations to respect human rights. This is the way forward to stop human rights violations affecting millions of people and their livelihoods around the world.”

Friends of the Earth International representatives contributed technical proposals along with experts, academics, lawyers and affected peoples representatives, rooted in national and regional contexts and expertise on community based resistance.

Kwami Kpondzo, Friends of the Earth Togo on behalf of Friends of the Earth Africa reported,

“I am proud to see African states – 54 in total represented by Togo- united in a commitment to support this urgently needed treaty as a means to right the wrongs of decades of corporate impunity. I was heartened by the leadership of South Africa as co-sponsor of resolution 26/9 and an inspiration for a growing number of states who are supporting the Treaty process, defending the IGWG mandate and presenting focused contributions to fill the existing gaps for transnational corporations regulation”

Mageswari Sangaralingam, Friends of the Earth Malaysia said,

“Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific is encouraged by the continued support of countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines for a binding treaty that will hold transnational corporations and their entire supply chains accountable for environmental crimes and human rights violations. We firmly believe that this binding treaty is an instrument for developing countries and for the people. We urge all Asia Pacific countries and civil society to raise the profile of this treaty so we can effectively respect, protect and fulfil the rights of our people and the environment.”

Ike Teuling, Friends of the Earth Europe commented:

“Despite the committed presence of European civil society in Geneva, the EU failed to participate in a substantive manner in the process, blatantly ignoring a recently adopted resolution by the European Parliament in support of the binding treaty. With the exception of a single statement from France on the content, they remained silent for most of the negotiations and even left the room during discussions on the conclusions of the working group. As a final statement, EU dissociated from the conclusions, isolating themselves from the consensus reached by all the other countries. It is clear that the EU is siding with business and not the people, whose rights are being violated by European transnational corporations.”

Alberto Villarreal, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean added,

“Affected peoples must be at the centre of this process. We therefore expect a more ambitious draft, one that responds to their expectations and cries for justice and an end to impunity. We also request a guarantee that activists and defenders of human rights will continue to be welcome in the Human Rights Council. We were highly concerned some States were questioning the rights of victims and civil society representatives to give their testimonies. This is unacceptable and not in the spirit of the treaty- a treaty for the peoples. On the other hand, many countries warmly welcomed our passion, testimonies and substantial contributions to the draft text of the treaty and the process overall.”

For Friends of the Earth and the Global Campaign the key points for inclusion in the next draft and during the informal consultations ahead of the 5th session include: the focus on transnational corporations and transnational business activities as established by Resolution 26/9; direct obligations and criminal, civil and administrative liability for human rights violations for transnational corporations; an international court on transnational corporations and human rights; the primacy of human rights above trade and investment agreements; the protection of the treaty process from undue influence by corporations and their representatives; and the guarantee of civil society safe participation throughout the process.

Press contacts:

Lucia Ortiz, Economic Justice Program, Friends of the Earth International:
lucia[at]foei.org
+55 48 99915-0071

Alberto Villarreal, Trade and Investment Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean:
comerc[at]redes.org.uy
+598 98 556 360

Ike Teuling, corporate accountability campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe:
ike.teuling[at]foeeurope.org
+316 29593882

Kwami Kpondzo, Friends of the Earth Africa Consultive Board
kwadodzi[at]yahoo.fr
+22898221457

For general media enquiries:
Amelia Collins
press[at]foei.org
+447740979709