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MRG and Lex Justi urge inclusion of minorities in the draft treaty on business and human rights

4 October 2019

As a draft binding instrument on business activities and human rights is being negotiated in Geneva, Minority Rights Groups International and Lex Justi have submitted comments on the draft text. In our submission, we call on the drafters of the treaty to include appropriate mentions of minorities and to align the language on FPIC with international standards on that matter.

The full submission can be read here.

The conclusion and recommendations are reproduced below:

“In sum, we laud the drafters for their persistence and believe that their work can make a significant contribution to further developments in the business and human rights area. Yet, we remain concerned that if the drafters do not include explicit mention of minorities in the treaty, it will represent a significant inconsistency with international human rights law and a step backwards for minority rights compared with the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs). We are also very worried that the draft, if unchanged, would represent a serious step backwards when it comes to indigenous peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). More broadly, if the drafters remain on a level of general principle, focus on ensuring that the treaty provisions are closely aligned with the UNGPs, and supplement the treaty with detailed measures in separate instruments, such as protocols, they may obtain broader support for the treaty discussions and move toward a more rapid finalisation and approval of the treaty.  We look forward to the treaty discussions in October. We present the drafters with the following recommendations on the basis of our comments above:

  1. ‘National or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities’ should be mentioned in provisions requiring special attention to particular groups of persons;
  2. The reason why minorities, indigenous peoples and other groups of persons are accorded special attention should be supplemented;
  3. Illustrative not exhaustive enumeration of particular groups is appropriate; lists and references to enumerated groups should be made consistent throughout the text;
  4. The definitions of ‘victims’ and ‘human rights violation or abuse’ require further consideration;
  5. References to the ‘transnational character’ of businesses should be deleted and references to ‘contractual relationships’ replaced with ‘business relationships’;
  6. The FPIC standard must be written as ‘free prior and informed consent’, rather than ‘consultations’, and the words ‘as applicable’ removed in Article 5.3.b; and
  7. The draft treaty should cover general principles reflecting those already affirmed in the UNGPs.

MRG_LJ_comments_Draft Treaty_B&HR