Full house and high participation on the first day. CIDSE especially welcomes that the EU is present alongside a high turnout of Member States. But if the EU wants to live up to its commitment to uphold human rights, a more constructive role is expected. We are hopeful that it will happen in the next days.
The introductory session began with an optimistic tone set by the opening panel. But the discussions on the Programme of Work gave a sense of déjà vu across the audience, which found themselves back in the first session of 2015. Two years ago, the EU Delegation required to also discuss the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, a voluntary mechanism that has already proved its limits. They also demanded the UN binding treaty to not be limited to transnational corporations but also include domestic companies. Only Norway, Australia and Mexico took the floor at this stage to align with the EU’s position. Fortunately, despite the highly tense tone of the discussion, it reached a constructive end. After the Chairperson reminded that a session on the scope is included in the programme, the EU decided to not formally object to the programme of work. It nonetheless raised doubts about the future of the process.
Plenary discussions: Europe acknowledges existing gaps
Mr Dominique Potier, member of the French Parliament and Rapporteur in the adoption of the French ‘duty of vigilance’ law stressed how companies can be regulated to address their impacts at home and abroad and stressed that the French law complements the UNGPs.
African states reminded the room of the dramatic and harmful impacts the activities of transnational corporations can have, and the need for binding measures that level the playing field. At CIDSE’s side event, co-organized with ECCJ members, Friends of the Earth Europe and SOMO as well as other organisations, further testimonies from the Global South exposed the impunity surrounding corporate abuses linked to investment and trade projects.
States praised themselves for the UNGPs but what are NAPs really delivering?
During the session dedicated to the UNGPs, EU Members States, which had remained mostly silent during the previous hours, intervened to stress their good performance in implementing these. The UK who was very early in implementing the UNGPs mentioned that though this instrument is not legally binding, the UNGPs don’t prevent States from adopting legislation as they had done with the UK Modern Slavery Act (which contains a transparency clause in relation to companies’ supply chains).
Published with the kind support of ECCJ.