UN Treaty

UN treaty on BHR

RWI has analysed this renewed effort by the UN to regulate transnational corporations under international law. There is a vigorous debate unfolding. The treaty effort raises numerous complexities that have made a legally binding agreement exceedingly difficult to achieve in the last 50 years. The global context is however rapidly changing as new laws on responsible business conduct and value-based trade have been adopted in the last decade.

Two recent publications on the topic:

Mares, ‘Draft UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights’, in Research Handbook on Business and Human Rights, Axel Marx, Geert Van Calster & Jan Wouters (eds), Edward Elgar (2022) pp. 22-44. Link

Abstract: The UN treaty proposal has polarized opinion from its beginning in 2014. To come closer to genuine points of disagreement and possible paths forward, this chapter explains and contextualizes the treaty process by unpacking the notion of ‘governance gaps’. The analysis identifies the multiple purposes pursued through this treaty that correspond to twelve governance gaps. Furthermore, several treaty precedents are discussed to draw attention to noteworthy regulatory dynamics.

Mares, ‘Regulating transitional corporations at the United Nations, The negotiations of a treaty on business and human rights’, International Journal of Human Rights (2022) Link

Abstract: The United Nations is the arena for a renewed push to regulate transnational corporations (TNCs) and their supply chains. This article analyses the treaty deliberations and design choices. The UN process is explained in relation to four other areas: business practice, due diligence laws, the UN Guiding Principles as key soft law instrument, and the UN’s earlier unsuccessful efforts at TNC regulation. Analytically, deeper causes of harm in global supply chains are identified and systematically compared to see how public and private norm-setters take them into account or downplay them.

Conference: RWI organized in 2021 an expert panel titled ‘Decent work in supply chains – revisiting a gap in international law and responses from the UN system’, at the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) World Congress (2021). Academics and practitioners (EU, UNCTAD, OECD) contributed. Video recording available here.