Right to development needs centre stage in TNC treaty

An alliance of affected communities and civil society, research and labour organisations has called on the South African government for the inclusion of inputs from civil society and affected communities world-wide in the development of a legally binding treaty on human rights violations of Trans-National Corporations (TNCs).

The Inter-Governmental Working Group (IGWG) set up to develop the treaty will meet early in July 2015 in Geneva. The meeting takes forward the historic resolution adopted at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014 and is to be chaired by South Africa. The meeting will shape the development of the treaty and potentially determine its effectiveness in protecting affected communities as the group will debate the scope of the treaty and determine those that will participate in the development of the treaty.

An alliance says that the inclusion of inputs of civil society and affected communities will be invaluable to ensure the legitimacy and relevance of the IGWG process. They also commend the South African government for its instrumental role in the introduction and adoption of the resolution and efforts to consult with civil society on taking the resolution forward.  

The alliance highlights a lesson learnt from Marikana, noting that the Farlam Commission found that Lonmin’s failure to comply with their housing obligations contributed to the tragedy of the 12th of August 2012. The lesson is used to illustrate the important role of TNCs operating in countries where governments and citizens face challenges in realising the right to development and socio-economic rights. Businesses cannot turn a blind eye to the socio-economic conditions and the right to development of the communities directly or indirectly affected by their operations, whether this is the local host communities or the migrant labour communities. The alliance argues that this should be an important feature of the treaty’s scope.

In particular the Alliance implores the South African government to:

“Ensure that both its own process and the IGWG process more broadly allows for and promotes the participation of civil society and affected communities in its broadest form;

Ensure that the scope of the treaty includes human rights violations in the scope of first, second or third generation rights where relevant, in particular the acknowledged role that TNCs play in promoting or hindering the right to development;

Ensure that the mandate that the government takes to the meeting in Geneva next week and into the future is representative of the South African citizens who stand to be protected by the binding treaty;

Restate the government’s commitment to ensuring that international law is respected at home as it is abroad.”

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