ENNHRI Statement on the ‘Zero Draft’ of the proposed business and human rights treaty

© UN Photo/Elma Okic

In June 2014 , the UN Human Rights Council established through a resolution an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights. This triggered Member States to work on the elaboration a binding international treaty that would create corporate accountability and access to justice of the victims of corporate human rights abuse.

Three sessions of the open-ended working group produced a Zero Draft of this treaty, followed by its draft Optional Protocol. The Zero Draft generated international attention and will be discussed in detail during the fourth session of the open-ended working between 15 and 19 October 2018 in Geneva.

Members of ENNHRI (including through its Business and Human Rights Working Group) have been actively following the developments with the open-ended working since its establishment. They have produced the ENNHRI Statement on the occasion of the fourth session of the open-ended working group, based upon which an intervention by ENNHRI will be made at the session.

Some of the key points made in the Statement are as follows:

  • ENNHRI members believe that a binding treaty could make a significant contribution to addressing current governance gaps and strengthening prevention of business-related human rights abuses while also improving access to remedy for victims of such abuses, wherever they are.
  • ENNHRI urges the EU and all EU Member States to proactively engage in the drafting process throughout the session.
  • ENNHRI members welcomed the Zero Draft and its emphasis on access to justice and remedy for victims, provisions on requiring States to pass human rights due diligence legislation and the recognition of central role of human rights due diligence in the accountability of businesses.
  • ENNHRI members received positively the fact that the Zero draft recognises the states as the main duty bearers under international law and it emphasizes the urgent need in policy coherence in human rights and trade.
  • ENNHRI notes that the scope of the activities included under the Zero Draft Treaty include only transnational activities, which is not in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Other aspects of the Zero Draft Treaty, such as the due diligence provisions, failed to be aligned with the UNGPs and the reference to gender and the position of vulnerable groups need to be further highlighted.
  • ENNHRI additionally suggests exploring the potential role of NHRIs as national implementation mechanism under the draft Optional Protocol.

You can read the full ENNHRI Statement here.