EU's inertia on human rights - why we can't lose another year

14 October 2019

This week (14-18 October 2019) marks another round of negotiations on a historic UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights will take place in Geneva. On the agenda is the first draft of the treaty that was published in July by Ecuador, the country chairing the process.

According to internal sources, the European Union is not planning to participate in any negotiations to improve the draft treaty text but will only be in the room as an observer. Since the 2018 negotiation rounds the European Commission failed to agree on a position on the subject, ignoring the voices of over half a million European citizens that signed a petition in support on the UN Binding Treaty. This means another year in which every day people's rights are being violated by multinational corporations drilling for oil in Nigeria, digging iron in Brazil or constructing palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

Friends of the Earth and numerous civil society organisations and movements will be present in Geneva to advocate for improvement of the first draft treaty text. The current text needs substantial improvement on the following issues:

  • absence of an article or text referring to the primacy of human rights over trade agreements;
  • the text focusses only on obligations to states and leaves out any direct obligations on transnational corporations itself;
  • the liability of transnational corporations for human rights violation throughout their whole supply chain is unclear;
  • The mechanisms of enforcement are too weak for the treaty to be effective.

Friends of the Earth Europe is urging EU Member States contribute to the negotiations and fill the gap the EU is creating by its inaction. Friends of the Earth Europe is also calling upon the new European Commission to take a proactive role is this important process that will stop the impunity of European transnational corporations violating human rights and will give victims fair access to justice.