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Negotiations on binding treaty on business and human rights

27 October, 2021This week, discussions on the UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights continue in Geneva. This is the 7th round, moving towards an instrument that will make companies legally liable for human rights violations in their supply chains.

Together with the ITUC and other global unions, IndustriALL Global Union have set out their position on the negotiations in a joint position paper. This week’s meeting is dealing with a revised document, the third version of the text.

Key priorities for the trade union movement include:

  • the scope of the treaty must be broad and substantive, covering all internationally recognised human rights, including fundamental worker and trade union rights
  • all business enterprises must be covered regardless of size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure or parent company-based extraterritorial regulation
  • there must be justice for victims of transnational corporate human rights violations in the home country of the corporation
  • there must be regulatory measures that require businesses to adopt and apply human rights due diligence policies and procedures

The instrument represents an important step in establishing the accountability of corporations in international law and would improve access to remedy for people affected by human rights violations.

The action plan adopted at IndustriALL’s 3rd Congress in September reads:

IndustriALL Global Union will continue to fight for binding legal instruments to protect people from human rights abuses by multinational companies, including support for a Binding UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights that is supported by effective remedy systems and campaign for human and labour rights’ compulsory due diligence be regulated at international and national levels through binding legislation.

“IndustriALL is committed to a UN binding instrument on business and human rights to end impunity for corporate human rights abuses. Ending corporate impunity must be at the heart of a sustainable recovery,”

says Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.

Binding regulations at national level, like the German Supply Chain Act, and the discussions on corresponding regulations at European level are important steps. However, they require a global framework that could provide an important link to existing agreements between unions and companies.

To that end, IndustriALL and Geman affiliate IG Metall is hosting a side event to the negotiations on 28 October on how self-regulatory corporate approaches and a binding UN treaty on business and human rights can lead to a fairer global economy.