Activists Campaign for Binding Human Rights Treaty at the UN

GENEVA, Switzerland – Environmental defenders and human rights campaigners attending a key UN gathering tasked with drafting a binding treaty to regulate corporate human rights abuses are calling on all countries to work towards effective human rights protections.

The first session of the ‘Intergovernmental Working Group’ (IGWG) on transnational corporations and human rights will take place in Geneva, on July 6-10, 2015. [1]

Friends of the Earth International and other activists from the Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and the Treaty Alliance, a growing global alliance of civil society groups, are campaigning for a legally binding international treaty to prevent and remedy corporate human rights abuses. [2]

Nineteen years ago Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders were executed in Nigeria for mobilising and speaking out against the impact of oil companies operating in Ogoniland, including Shell. To this day justice has not been done. A new binding human rights treaty would go a long way to prevent such injustice in the future,” said Godwin Ojo, executive director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action.

Existing voluntary guidelines on business and human rights do not provide access to justice and remedy for victims of corporate abuse, according to Friends of the Earth International, which advocates for a legally binding system to put human rights above the corporate privileges and impunity provided by ‘free trade’ regimes and investor rights.

“This meeting could be a milestone for legally binding rules for transnational corporations and towards an end to their current impunity if UN member states show clear political will. Corporate crimes should not be left unpunished. A binding treaty is urgently needed to provide global remedy for victims and restoration of livelihoods and ecosystems damaged by transnational corporations. We also need it to hold corporations and their directors legally liable and criminally responsible for their human rights violations,” said Lucia Ortiz, Economic Justice International Program Coordinator at Friends of the Earth International.

“Thousands of people are mobilizing for this treaty worldwide. From 6-9 July social movements and affected peoples representatives will occupy the UN square in Geneva to witness which countries champion human rights and which countries instead protect transnational corporate abusers at all costs,” she added.

The European Union has been opposed to elaborating a binding treaty since the resolution to do was presented at the UN Human Rights Council, and has indicated publicly that it will not engage in the debate. Despite the fact that the European Parliament issued a statement in support of the IGWG process for binding rules for corporations, the EU has imposed conditions that need to be met before it engages. This is in sharp contrast to the aggressive way the EU advocates for corporate rights through free trade agreements, for instance in the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations.

But many countries will engage in the historical July 6-10 gathering, including for instance most Latin American countries and Switzerland.
The treaty is supported by many diverse governments including those of Ecuador, South Africa, Indonesia, India, China as well as the Vatican and by more than 800 organisations, including the UN Human Rights Council.

Campaigners from Friends of the Earth International observing the meeting in Geneva are available for comment on the developments at the UN gathering. A delegation with representatives from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay is joining a week of mobilization in Geneva, organized by the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. [3]

On Wednesday 8 July from 1-3pm Friends of the Earth International will organise a side event titled “environmental crimes and systemic Human Rights violations by Transnational Corporations” in Room IX at the UN Palais des Nations, in Geneva.


During the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, an ‘open-ended intergovernmental working group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights,’ was established with the mandate to ‘elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises’ (res 26/9).

[2] For more information:

[3] For more information:


Friends of the Earth International

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.