The Obligations of Transnational Corporations

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In the absence of a treaty regulating extraterritorial obligations ETOs in the context of the overseas operations of companies, the content of said obligations has been developed primarily through the statements of international human rights bodies. It describes the most relevant ETO standards developed by the UN and the Inter-American systems and suggests that the adoption of a binding treaty on business and human rights has the potential to fill in regulatory loopholes that have favored impunity over corporate abuses in the context of overseas operations.

Finally, the essay concludes that despite the north-south divergences over the content of said treaty, the existence of a diplomatic forum within the UN Human Rights Council for the negotiation of a binding treaty provides an important venue to improve the human rights standards and to strengthen the international commitment towards ETOs. The existence of a diplomatic forum within the UN Human Rights Council for the negotiation of a binding treaty provides an important venue to improve the human rights standards.

As of January , the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has raised the issue of ETOs in five general comments 15, 19, 22, 23, and 24 , as well as in concluding observations regarding several countries. Likewise, different Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts have dedicated part of their thematic reports to ETOs in the context of corporate abuses. The American Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other international treaties, contain general clauses on how states should implement the obligations to respect, protect, and guarantee rights.

Extraterritorial obligations for all

The scope of these obligations can vary according to the way that responsibility is attributed to a given state. In addition, the General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted two main international conventions related to terrorism that are worth noting, since they impose extraterritorial jurisdiction.


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These two conventions only apply in cases of crimes of a transnational character art. There is no uniform practice or multilateral treaty requiring the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction to redress human rights violations. In the context of tort law and civil claims, there is no uniform practice or multilateral treaty requiring the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction to redress human rights violations. A small number of treaties call for the establishment of civil remedies, while regulating the prosecution of certain international crimes.

The UN Convention against Torture is one of the few multilateral instruments that do so.

Article 14 of this Convention requires states parties to provide an enforceable right to compensation, including for acts of torture that take place in a foreign country. Although international human rights standards are not prescriptive as to the obligation to pursue criminal liability in the home states of companies involved in human rights violations, they clearly demand effective remedies to be pursued. These proceedings should also be instigated for crimes that take place abroad when domestic law does not prevent the exercise of criminal extraterritorial jurisdiction and when International Law so requires.

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The only excerpt related to ETOs reads as follows:. Principle 2.


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Nor are they generally prohibited from doing so, provided there is a recognized jurisdictional basis. Within these parameters some human rights treaty bodies recommend that home States take steps to prevent abuse abroad by business enterprises within their jurisdiction […].

Three months after the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles, a group of international experts systematized the customary and treaty-based standards regarding ETOs under International Law. In addition to the ETO standards developed before , when the UN Guiding Principles and the Maastricht Principles were adopted, international human rights organs have amplified the content of treaty rules and principles regarding ETOs. However, the process of implementing the UN Guiding Principles by states has not accommodated these developments properly.

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Extraterritorial obligations for all | openDemocracy

This can be easily demonstrated by analyzing the content of the National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights adopted to date. As to the remedial mechanisms for violations committed by transnational companies, the document asserts that access to remedy can be provided by state-based and non-state-based, as well as judicial and non-judicial mechanisms see Guiding Principles States should ensure that the combination of the measures available allows for effective remedy. In this regard, Governments should consider: — Assessing in case[s where] this has not yet been done to what extent victims of domestic and extraterritorial adverse corporate human rights impacts have access to remediation mechanisms and address the identified gaps pg.

Very few provide a comprehensive explanation of grievance mechanisms for corporate abuses and none of them give specific examples on how this mechanism should operate to deal with extraterritorial violations claims.

Other Subject Areas

This resolution determined that the IGWG should prepare elements for the draft of a legally binding instrument for substantive negotiations. The highly unequal distribution of land ownership in many countries remains an issue of concern, from Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa via South East Asia. The lack of adequate and secure access to land and natural resources for the rural and urban poor is one of the key causes of hunger and poverty in the world. The trend towards the re-concentration of land ownership and the reversal of redistributive agrarian reform processes can be observed even in countries with traditionally more egalitarian patterns of access to land, such as China.

A global process is underway whereby powerful foreign private and public investors conclude agreements with States to take possession of or control large surfaces of land, which is relevant for current and future food sovereignty in the host countries.

Transnational Corporate Accountability and Human Rights Treaty

The FAO estimates that in the last three years twenty million hectares have been acquired by foreign interests in Africa alone. Transnational corporations play a major role not only in the extractive sector and in the renewed interest for land and agricultural investments. They have become key players in many various areas that are of vital strategic importance to the realization of human rights and in particular of economic, social and cultural rights. Among these areas, one can mention security, communication and media, social services and infrastructure.