Joint Civil Society Statement on Human Rights and Corporate Accountability

 

Oral Intervention on Human Rights and Corporate Accountability

20 July 2015

Click here to view the Webcast recording (time 2:36:22 – 2:38:55).

Delivered during the 2nd meeting of the Post-2015 Inter-Governmental Negotiations on July 20, 2015 by Nicholas Anton of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council of North and South America on behalf of the following organizations: 

Collaborating Organizations: Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council of North and South America (GOAC); NGO Mining Working Group; Sisters of Mercy (NGO), Mercy International Association: Global Action; Temple of Understanding; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; Global Campaign for Education; Blue Planet Project; Council of Canadians; Institute for Planetary Synthesis (IPS); International Disability Alliance.

Endorsing Organizations: International Presentation Association, Pathways to Peace (PTP); Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice Alliance (RESURJ); Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues; Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism of the NGO Committee on Human Rights; Psychology Coalition at the United Nations.

In light of the Ffd outcome last week, we are alarmed by the extraordinary level of confidence that governments are placing in the private sector to finance and implement the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The notion that we need to unlock the potential of the private sector is fundamentally contradicted by the trillions of dollars currently leaving developing countries through corporate tax evasion and other illicit financial flows. Added to this is a general lack of accountability despite prolific evidence of systemic human rights abuses perpetrated by corporations that undermine development efforts.

We urge governments to ensure legal accountability for impacts that breach international standards on human rights and environmental impacts rather than regulate in favor of the private sector through the provision of an enabling business environment.

The existing human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, the Special Procedures, the Treaty Bodies, and the Universal Periodic Review, have proven to be important spaces for evaluating human rights compliance of States and monitoring human rights abuses by third parties.

Furthermore, we need to strengthen commitments to protect policy space in light of trade and investment frameworks in which Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses empower corporations to sue governments for reducing the value of investments through regulations that promote human rights, the environment, and labor standards. International trade agreements have moved far beyond lowering traditional trade barriers and into regulation of key areas of public policy; regulation that is frequently backed by ISDS mechanisms, which undermine the sovereignty of States and restrict their policy spaces while protecting the interests of foreign investors above human rights, the public interest, and the environment.

We therefore join other groups in calling for a Declaration that provides a framing narrative demanding systemic changes to the global economic system that currently generates impoverishment, inequalities, and environmental degradation.

Finally, the call, for example, in paragraph 59 to “scale up public-private cooperation” is made in light of disastrous experiences with privatization, notably in the areas water and sanitation, healthcare, and education – particularly for, inter alia, women and girls, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and racial and ethnic minorities. There is growing evidence that privatization of essential social services exacerbates inequalities in access and marginalizes the poorest. As duty bearers of our human rights, governments cannot ‘outsource’ these obligations to the private sector.

Thus, we recommend that the following be reflected in the declaration:

  1. Address structural systemic imbalances by utilizing binding norms, including for transnational corporations, which are consistent with human rights obligations. (For example, by revising para 17).
  2. Ensure universal access to essential services including water and sanitation, healthcare, and education by ring-fencing them from privatization and private financing. (For example, by revising para 32).
  3. Subject private sector involvement in the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda to strict and enforceable standards, which should build upon the ILO supervisory mechanism, international human rights standards including but not limited to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and other relevant international standards. (For example, in para 17).
  4. Ensure that development aid or loans aimed at implementing the Post-2015 Development Agenda are not be tied to conditionalities forcing privatization or trade liberalization. (For example, in paras 32-41).

And to echo Member States in the room earlier today,

  1. Guarantee accountability mechanisms as robust and comprehensive enough to cover private sector actors, partnerships and IFIs, as well as States and the United Nations, premised on full transparency and accountability for human rights impacts. (For example, in the Implementation section (Paras 32-41), there are specific instances where this can be incorporated).