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Friends of the Earth International joins movement calling for legally binding, enforceable rules to bring transnational corporations to justice for human rights violations resulting from their activities.

Many Transnational corporations (TNCs) have significantly contributed to human rights abuses and environmental damage in countries around the world. Looser labour regulations or poorly enforced environmental standards can provide attractive investment opportunities for businesses more concerned with their profits than the human and ecological impacts of their activities.

What can be done about this? Under current international, regional and national laws, a lot less than you might think. Multiple efforts to strengthen the rules that could keep TNCs in check have been made since the 1970s, but so far these efforts have amounted to little more than a series of ineffective voluntary guidelines which TNCs can easily ignore or – worse – can pretend to abide by to improve their public image.

But at last there is an interesting proposal on the table. Spearheaded by Ecuador and enjoying the support of several other States, the proposal is a push for legally binding rules at UN level. In June this year, representatives from Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) will travel to Geneva to pressure government representatives to make this proposal a reality. Many of the groups FoEI works with, including many members of our own federation, regularly suffer harassment, intimidation and harm because of their environmental activities. We are compiling these cases and preparing a thorough report describing the breadth of the problem, which we will take with us to Geneva. This report presents a snapshot of FoEI’s efforts over a two-year period to respond to and disseminate testimonies and information about attacks on environmental defenders, contextualizing these attacks within current global economic and political trends, and reinforcing the need for access to justice for defenders denouncing corporate crimes including human right violations and ecocide.

In the meantime, May is a month of action to let governments and the UN know that these measures are needed and that they are needed now! We are part of a movement of more than 500 organizations that will work together to mobilize further civil society and government support, publicize the movement to like minded organizations and ask individuals to support our efforts.

FoEI is calling on States to guarantee the full enjoyment of environmental and human rights, including the right to defend rights. States must promote and agree upon international rules and instruments that legally bind transnational corporations to respect the rights of nature, of people, and of rights defenders.

Read our report: We defend the environment, we defend human rights