Last month, the Alternative Information and Development Centre together with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies and Lawyers for Human Rights hosted a two-day indaba on the UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights in Johannesburg. The theme was: “Towards a legally binding instrument on corporate accountability for human rights: Lessons learnt from the pandemic.”
The Indaba brought together activists, academics and trade unionists working towards dismantling corporate power in Southern Africa to unpack the importance of a legally binding mechanism on business and human rights. According to Boa Monjane, Coordinator of the Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, it’s important to have a legally binding instrument because corporations have consolidated their power in a way that has granted them impunity. This means that they can violate human rights because currently there is no instrument to hold them accountable.
International delegate, Brid Brennan from the Transnational Institute (TNI) said civil society is excited about the #BindingTreaty because it will open new possibilities to protect human rights.
In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution 26/9, elaborating an international and legally binding instrument that regulates the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The resolution was put forward by Ecuador and South Africa and adopted by a recorded vote of 20 to 14, with 13 abstentions. Out of 20 countries that voted in support, ten were African countries; an indicator that the continent is ready to curb corporate impunity and hold corporations accountable. However, according to Dr Francis Moloi from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, they are struggling to lobby other African governments to participate in the negotiations for a #BindingTreaty.
Former CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission, Tseliso Thipanyane, accused the government of aiding and facilitating the violations of human rights by multinational companies. He said the #BindingTreaty will help to deal with violations in cases where corporations have ‘captured’ the state.
When it comes to consultations, Dr Moloi said the government does not do enough consultations with social partners. Nonhle Mbuthuma, the spokesperson for the Amadiba Crisis Committee, said public consultations are not enough – communities need to give consent.
The two-day event concluded with a session led by CALS’ director, Professor Tshepo Madlingozi, that finalized resolutions to be used in lobbying all role players to advance an African voice on the Binding Treaty.
According to Maxine Bezuidenhout, Programme Officer in the Dismantling Corporate Power Campaign, the Campaign will host a series of activities in the lead-up to the Geneva negotiations. It will also continue to put pressure on SADC states to push for a legally binding instrument that will protect the rights of people and nature and provide mechanisms which can hold corporations accountable. You can download the Binding Treaty Indaba Resolutions here.
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