Externado professor participated in United Nations Human Rights event in Switzerland

For the first time, our University and the Latin American Observatory on Human Rights and Business of the Department of Constitutional Law were present at the Seventh Session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights at the United Nations, thanks to the participation of Professor Julian Tole Martinez.

These sessions are part of the negotiation process initiated in 2014 with the adoption of Resolution 26/9 of the Human Rights Council with the intention of filling the legal vacuum in relation to the responsibility of companies for violations caused to people, communities and the environment of the territories in which they operate their production chain. In this sense, the intention to consolidate a treaty as an international instrument for the protection of human rights that establishes effective mechanisms to prevent and hold transnational corporations and transnational entities accountable for human rights violations is necessary, The purpose of the working group session was to review the third draft of the binding treaty, published on August 17, 2021, in order to make an effort to reduce the asymmetry between the rights recognized to transnational corporations through trade and investment treaties, and the almost non-existent duties in international human rights law.

Professor Tole, had the opportunity to intervene in the negotiation session of articles 1, 4 and 14, his intervention revolved around the definition of “business activities” in article 1, as follows:

“Thank you very much Mr. President, my name is Julian Tole, I speak as a professor of international law at the Universidad Externado de Colombia and on behalf of Corporate Accountability International, members of Global Campaign.

Regarding the definition of “business activities” in 1.3, we consider it essential to maintain the spirit of Resolution 26/9, which focuses on transnational corporations and other transnational business enterprises. This is something that should be modified throughout the text, as Russia, Cuba, India, South Africa, Pakistan, and other States have said.

Any vague and imprecise terms that may reduce the legal certainty, effectiveness of the instrument and, above all, the liability of the companies, by establishing ambiguous terms that allow a free interpretation of the substantial nature of the transnational activity or its effects, should also be excluded from the draft. Therefore, we suggest excluding “significant” from 1.4 b and c, so that any activity within another State is considered a transnational activity.

The campaign would like to express our full agreement with the proposal made by Palestine with respect to article 1.5, including the express mention of supply chains. Furthermore, we consider it essential to include the definition of global chain in this article, understanding it as the group of companies coordinated and/or controlled by a parent company that contribute to the operations of the transnational corporation, from the provision of materials, services and funds to the delivery of products to the end user. Thus, the global chain includes affiliates, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and any other entity with which the parent company maintains business relationships. The Campaign will send this definition in writing in its position paper, along with all the amendments to the text.

Finally, we agree with the first part of 1.5 Bis, proposed by Iran and other countries, however, we suggest that this proposal should read as follows: “Other business enterprises” denotes all business enterprises that have a transnational character in their operation activities. At no time shall the text of this article be a way to break the link between the different entities that make up the entire supply or value chain, from the lowest link to the parent company.”

Thanks to the participation of the Universidad Externado de Colombia, it was possible to approach relevant actors in the negotiation process, such as civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, State delegations and, in particular, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The meeting took place from October 25 to 29 in Geneva, Switzerland.