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The first regional workshop towards the creation of an international binding treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights took place in Quito, Ecuador, on October 6-7. Delegations of several South and Central American countries participated.
Ecuador, one of the countries pushing for the creation of the binding treaty in the framework of the UN Human Rights Council organized the first intergovernmental consultation about this instrument. This way, the country is following the mandate of the Intergovernmental Working Group of the Council, which is in charge of setting the bases for the treaty. This working group will hold its second session the week of October 24 in Geneva, Switzerland, and is presided by Ecuador´s Ambassador to the UN, María Fernanda Espinosa.
Participants of the workshop included representatives of Human Rights Departments throughout South America and Central America or their envoys. There were delegates from Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Panama, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. But two chairs remained empty: those belonging to Nicaragua and Brazil.
Real World Radio interviewed activist Alberto Villarreal, Trade and Investments Campaigner at REDES – Friends of the Earth Uruguay, present at Quito´s meeting. Alberto is also member of the Steering Group of the Resisting Neoliberalism Program at Friends of the Earth International, representing the Latin American and Caribbean region.
The environmental activist was invited by the Ecuadorian´s Foreign Affairs Ministry to attend the regional workshop. There, he addressed all official Human Rights delegates. His balance about the receptivity of the audience was positive: “I think we managed to be quite convincing in terms of the need to advance towards a binding treaty, towards binding rules and enforceability instruments for transnational corporations with respect to their human rights obligations”. Nevertheless, Villarreal said that the decision is ultimately a political one and that currently Latin America is going through a counter-offensive of right-wing forces, national oligarchies and imperialism at international level, that makes it difficult to control transnational corporations. He also urged social movements and organizations to deal with this issue with more depth in the different countries.
Alberto considered that this first intergovernmental workshop in Quito “was an opportunity to break the ice with delegations from countries that have had in Geneva a reluctant attitude”. He added that “in this meeting it was possible to have a more honest dialogue, even delegations that do not agree with the binding treaty participated”, delegations that prefer the implementation of voluntary principles. Nevertheless, they asked questions with a legitimate interest, said the member of Friends of the Earth.
It is expected that the second session in Geneva will advance on State obligations, but especially the obligations of transnational corporations with respect to Human Rights. Another key issue to be dealt with during this week will be access to justice for those affected by human rights violations perpetrated by transnational corporations.
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