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African organisations call for a Binding Treaty

- Lee-Anne Bruce

African civil society organisations are calling for a Binding Treaty on business and human rights that reflects African perspectives

As part of the latest round of negotiations on the U.N. Binding Treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, African civil society organisations are calling for a Treaty that reflects African perspectives and effectively addresses African experiences. Tomorrow we host the event “For us, by us: Africans for a Binding Treaty” bringing together representatives from states, trade unions, civil society organisations and affected communities in order to share experiences and strategies.

Over the last few decades, the continent has witnessed an increase in foreign direct and local investments —which under the disguise of spurring economic development and in certain cases complicit with state agencies  have been at the helm of massive human rights abuses and violations. These investments, often by large and economically powerful transnational corporations, have a long history of profiting from human rights abuses and environmental destruction, especially in Global South countries which may have weaker laws and depend on foreign investment. Unfortunately, it remains difficult to hold them accountable for their actions, due to the huge power imbalances that exist between states, corporations and communities. The few attempts to address this, like the U.N. Guiding Principles on business and human rights, are voluntary and ineffective.

Within the continent, we don’t have to look very far for compelling evidence that points to the ineffectiveness of voluntary mechanisms to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations and environmental abuses. From the widely-known case of oil pollution by the Royal Dutch Shell Group in Ogoniland to tax evasion by Acacia Mining in Tanzania, it’s clear that voluntary principles and corporate social responsibility programmes are not working. What we need is a legally binding, international tool to end corporate impunity.

As such, the current proposed Binding Treaty on business and human rights being negotiated at the United Nations is such a tool to strengthen accountability mechanisms. Initially tabled by South Africa and Ecuador in 2014, the draft Treaty is currently under negotiation for the second time. Countries from the Global South have expressed continuous support for the Treaty. This is an important step for gender justice, environmental rights and peoples’ movements struggles to curb corporate impunity.

The ongoing negotiations present an opportunity for African governments, who have often decried international instruments as tools of neocolonialism, to shape a strong framework that could put an end to corporate impunity and provide remedies for victims. We hope to help facilitate this and bolster regional collaboration on the Treaty.

Civil society organisations from around the continent will be hosting a side event on 17 October 2019 entitled “For us, by us: Africans for a Binding Treatybringing together representatives from states, trade unions, civil society organisations and affected communities to strengthen the support for the Treaty by highlighting the disproportionate impacts of corporate impunity in Africa.

Read the full concept note here and find out more about our work on the Binding Treaty here. Follow us on Twitter for more.

Issued jointly by:

  • African Coalition on Corporate Accountability (ACCA)
  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)
  • Feminists for a Binding Treaty (F4BT)
  • Federation for Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya)
  • National Association for Women’s Action in Development (NAWAD)
  • Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL)
  • Womankind Worldwide, Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power
  • Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)
  • Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  • Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER)
  • Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA)
  • Justiça Ambiental (JA!) – Friends of the Earth Mozambique
  • Centre for Human Rights (CHR) at the University of Pretoria
  • Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA)

#Africans4BindingTreaty #Feminists4BindingTreaty #BindingTreaty #UNForumBHR #StopCorporateImpunity

For more information, please contact Akhona Mehlo at