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Civil society partners with DIRCO to host indaba on UN Binding Treaty

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS, ActionAid and Laywers for Human Rights are partnering with DIRCO to host a discussion on the proposed UN Binding Treaty from 21 August in Johannesburg

CALS, Lawyers for Human Rights and ActionAid South Africa, in cooperation with DIRCO, are preparing to host a discussion on the draft international binding treaty regulating business practices and their impact on human rights. The indaba will begin on 21 August 2018 at the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Johannesburg and is open to the public.

In June 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Ecuador and South Africa. This resolution established an Inter-Governmental Working Group with the purpose of developing an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. The first draft of this instrument – known as the “Zero Draft” – was published in July 2018.

Transnational Corporations (or “TNCs”) are globally recognised as perpetrators of human rights violations across many sectors. Their increasing levels of economic and political power present a particular challenge in developing countries and frequently hamper the ability of communities in these jurisdictions to hold corporations accountable for abuses. The existing voluntary UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have proved inadequate in many respects in regulating and holding the operations of TNCs accountable for human rights violations.

It is critical that as corporations grow more dominant in the global context, effective mechanisms to ensure corporate accountability are implemented to take account of this growing reality. In addressing the imbalance of power between TNCs, states and human rights holders, the voices of those who stand to be most affected by TNCs must be prioritised in the responses to Zero Draft of the treaty, with a particular focus on the gendered aspects of human rights abuses.

The robust engagement of civil society, labour, business, and communities in assessing the proposed treaty is critical to providing the South African government with comprehensive feedback and in order to inform South Africa’s position in the upcoming round of treaty negotiations to be held at the United Nations in  Geneva over 15 – 19 October 2018.

ActionAid South Africa, in cooperation with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and supported by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), invite all relevant stakeholders and the press to a critical multi-lateral engagement to influence, support and consolidate the South African position as co‐sponsor of the proposed treaty, and to ensure that the perspectives of its key stakeholder constituents are reflected in these upcoming negotiations.

Participants will include all relevant National Government Departments, Chapter 9 institutions, trade unions, civil society organisations, business, mining affected communities, and a select group of international guests. Day 1 will be spent unpacking the nature and importance of a legally binding mechanism on business and human rights, hearing from government, business, communities, and labour. Day 2 includes a site visit to a community in Mokopane, Limpopo to hear first-hand the lived experiences of those affected by TNCs.

Date: 21 – 22 August 2018

Venue: Johannesburg, Gauteng

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