Binding treaty

18 October 2019, Geneva

UN negotiations drew to a close for another year after a week of discussions on the text details for a binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights. The process is becoming better established year on year, and contrary to other years, no State questioned its continuity.

“Encouragingly, in this fifth session many delegations participated actively and positively, ensuring a higher ambition for the text and returning many elements that lie at the heart of Resolution 26/9, but had disappeared from this year’s revised draft.”

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

However, some delegations are still determined to water down the text, and most of the home states of the majority of transnational corporations are not taking part. We therefore encourage more government delegations to participate constructively.

“The revised draft falls disappointingly short of becoming an effective treaty. It is too weak to meet the objectives of the mandate of the working group: to regulate transnational corporations, prevent them from violating human rights and destroying the environment, and to guarantee access to justice and remedies for those affected.” 

Juliette Renaud, from Friends of the Earth Europe region

The treaty must address the following issues: focus on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with transnational activity; the primacy of human rights over trade and investment; direct obligations for transnational corporations; liability of parent and outsourcing companies over their subsidiaries, controlled companies and all entities in their value chain; strong implementation mechanisms including an international court; strengthened rights of affected communities; and protection from corporate capture.

These demands are an overview of the treaty proposal built by the Global Campaign along with social movements and affected peoples, who were present this year in large numbers.

Civil society has, once again, been paramount in mobilizing at the national level to ensure States engage in the process, and in providing concrete proposals to get the legally binding treaty we need to bring transnationals to account and justice for peoples.

“In the concluding session, some States attempted to exclude civil society from the next steps of the negotiations. We were glad to see other States defending the value of civil society contributions and the importance of a transparent process.”

Leticia Paranhos, Economic Justice Program Coordinator

“The discussions were far more technical this year, concentrating as they were on the wording of the treaty. Nevertheless the voice of civil society is incredibly important. It is what will ensure this is truly a treaty of the peoples.”

Erika Mendes from Friends of the Earth Africa

“We will continue to push this process forward. We must act on the urgency of the need for this treaty. Especially in light of the fact that human rights and environmental defenders continue to be threatened, attacked, intimidated, silenced and murdered, the impunity of transnational corporations still prevails and the entrenchment of corporate power around the world is deepened.”

Pochoy Labog, from Friends of the Earth Asia and Pacific

We will not allow the draft treaty to lose sight of the mandate or quieten the voices of the peoples. Future negotiations should be based on the mandate of Resolution 26/9 and a compilation of the text proposals presented by States and civil society in this fifth session.

We will continue to fight for an effective treaty, a treaty that will end corporate impunity, a treaty of and for the peoples. 

Press contacts:
Leticia Paranhos, Economic Justice Program Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International, from Brazil:
leticia[at]  (Portuguese, Spanish)
+ 55 51 999515663

Alberto Villarreal, Trade and Investment Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean, from Uruguay (Spanish, English):
+598 98 556 360

Erika Mendes, Friends of the Earth Africa, from Mozambique (English, Portuguese)
+258 82 473 6210

Juliette Renaud, Friends of the Earth Europe, from France  (English, French, Spanish)
+33 6 37 65 56 40

Pochoy Labog, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific, from the Philippines (English)

For general media enquiries:
Amelia Collins