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National Indaba on U.N. Binding Treaty

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Southern African civil society organisations are hosting a national indaba to prepare for upcoming treaty negotiations in October

This October, states and civil society organisations will meet in Geneva with a UN Intergovernmental Working Group to discuss the latest version of a proposed international, legally binding instrument intended to regulate the activities of transnational corporations. This Binding Treaty aims to protect human rights and combat violations and abuses by business enterprises. In preparation for this session, southern African civil society organisations are hosting a national indaba on 18 and 19 September.

At its 26th session in June 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution, sponsored by Ecuador and South Africa. This resolution established an Intergovernmental Working Group tasked with developing an international, legally binding instrument to regulate transnational corporations (TNC) and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. Since then, a series of negotiations have taken place around the contents of such a Binding Treaty.

This week, the Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, Lawyers For Human Rights, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Women Affected by Mining United in Action and Mining Affected Communities United in Action are hosting an indaba to discuss the latest version of the Binding Treaty. The indaba will bring together communities, academics, civil society and government representatives to prepare for the next set of negotiations in October and ensure that southern African perspectives are included in further drafts of the Treaty. The indaba will begin on 18 September 2019 with a closed community activist workshop and will be open to the public on the 19 September 2019.

Transnational Corporations 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 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 the Draft 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 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 14 – 18 October 2019.

We 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 representatives from key government departments, industries and affected communities. Day 1 will be spent unpacking the nature and importance of a legally binding mechanism on business and human rights. Day 2 includes discussions with government representatives to ensure recommendations from civil society organisations and communities inform the government’s position at the UN.

Please join us on 19 September 2019 at the Sunnyside Park Hotel, Parktown, Johannesburg

For more information, please contact: