Forum on Business and Human Rights What’s behind the Big Show at the UN?


Geneva, 3 December 2012- For some three decades, we have been witness to the increasing power of transnational corporations (TNCs). At present, world-wide, hundreds of TNCs control the major part of the production and marketing of goods and services. This position gives them a power without precedent in history. Moreover, the transformation of banking activities and the concentration of financial capital in the hands of several transnational entities threaten not only the real economy but also democracy.Everywhere and nowhere (legally speaking), TNCs use complex and very often artificial structures to evade being held accountable for human rights violations as well as to excape from legislation on workers’ rights, the environment and taxation.

It is in this context that the first Forum on Business and Human Rights will be held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva (4 and 5 December 2012). Born of a Human Rights Council resolution, this Forum will gather in, besides the member states, NGOs and national human rights institutions, the representatives of TNCs such as ABB, ABB, Chevron, Shell, BP, Repsol, PepsiCo, UBS – as if all these entities were on an equal footing!

The mandate of this Forum is limited essentially to cataloguing “best practices” of TNCs and the promotion of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights drafted in 2011 by John Ruggie, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General and consultant to Barrick Gold Corporation, inter alia. Moreover, he will be chairing the Forum! The great drawback is that this Forum is not authorized to accept complaints concering human rights violations committed by TNCs.

For decades, the CETIM has been carrying on research on this subject and on the limits of codes of good conduct. It is of the firm opinion that only if member states adopt legally binding norms to regulate the activities of TNCs that violate human rights can those corporations’ power be thwarted (see below). It is to be regretted that the U.N. seems to have given up on the adoption of these norms. The subject may be at an impasse, but it should not be abandoned. It is time to put politics above the economy.

For these reasons, the CETIM will not take part in and will not support this mega-show.  For further information on this subject:  Bulletin n° 43 (August 2012) Transnational Corporations: Major Players in Human Rights Violations (December 2011)

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