Commentary: EU must take proactive stance toward fighting corporate impunity by prioritizing UN binding treaty on business & human rights

Author: Anne van Schaik, Lydia de Leeuw (EURACTIV, Belgium), Published on: 13 March 2018

"If no one is above the law, let’s talk about corporate accountability", 5 Mar 2018

...In June 2014, the Human Rights Council voted for a resolution to develop a treaty on business and human rights...[T]his treaty would be the first internationally binding instrument to ensure that businesses...respect human rights in their activities...Governments find it difficult to act on their own when it comes to limiting the activities of multinational companies...because they fear that global businesses will simply take their investment and jobs elsewhere.  European governments must...use this unique opportunity to work together, shaping an internationally binding treaty requiring companies to carry out human rights due diligence to prevent abuses from occurring, and which will ensure that communities can get access to justice if they are harmed by exploitative and dangerous corporate practices...[S]ome European states have been dragging their feet in the UN treaty process...The European Union has...expressed its prioritization of the implementation of the – non-binding – UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights (UNGPs), and that we should not rush forward with a binding instrument to address business-related human rights issues.  This standpoint...illustrates the EU’s incoherence in policy making around corporate activity.  Europe has been bending over backwards to develop hard law trade and investment agreements, accommodating big business interests, while showing little interest in protecting the rights of citizens in international law from corporate wrongdoing...

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