Progress towards a binding treaty on business and human rights

October marked another step towards the respect of human rights within multinational companies. As discussed during the third session of the UN intergovernmental working group in Geneva (23-27 October), it has been confirmed that an international treaty on business and human rights will be drafted.

As highlighted in a recent SOLIDAR publication titled ‘Private sector: Mismatching development with economic growth?’, the lack of regulation, transparency and accoun­tability is one of the major issues when it comes to multinational corporations. Guidelines such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enter­prises, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or voluntary initiatives such as Cor­porate Social Responsibility exist but they are not strong enough for companies to be held accoun­table. No binding instruments are so far available, reflecting a situation where economic interests still prevail over the respect of social and labour rights. Although steps are being taken in the right direction such as the proposals for public country by country reporting at the EU level, which would require multi­national companies to disclose information with regards to their assets, taxable income, taxes paid, the number of employees, etc., SOLIDAR is convinced that additional mea­sures which are enforceable and global in scope are needed to end this race to the bottom. Therefore, SOLIDAR welcomes this new step forward.

More broadly speaking, privatisation has become very problematic in some cases when it comes to the respect of workers’ rights. As part of the MENA project, ECESR, our project partner, recently produced a documentary on privatisation and workers’ rights violations based on interviews with nine workers in four companies in Egypt. It was presented for the first time in Tunis last October and will be screened at our forthcoming regional meeting on Youth Employment taking place in November from 24 to 25 November in Morocco.

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