February 11, 2022

New dynamics – new prospects?

Karolin Seitz

Report on the seventh session of the UN open-ended intergovernmental working group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (“treaty”)

Karolin Seitz is the Director of Global Policy Forum’s Business & Human Rights Program.She has written about the conflicts in Mali for the HIIK Conflict Barometer. Previously, Karolin spent a year as volunteer at PACINDHA, a Malian NGO working on issues of human rights and environmental protection in Bamako as well as in nature conservation areas in the South West of Mali.

A publication by Global Policy Forum Europe e.V. and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.

Photo: UN Geneva

From October 25-29, 2021, the UN open-ended intergovernmental working group on the elaboration of a legally binding instrument on Business and Human Rights met for the seventh time at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in Geneva. Two developments provided a new dynamic compared to previous sessions. For the first time since the intergovernmental working group’s establishment in 2014, the United States and Japan participated in its meeting. Germany also expressed its views for the first time. 

In its coalition agreement, Germany’s new government is committed to the socio-ecological transformation as well as to the continuation of the Alliance for Multilateralism. However, for the new government, multilateral action in certain areas seems to end at Europe’s borders. While it is in favor of an EU-wide supply chain law, it says nothing about its future involvement in the UN treaty process. Yet a UN treaty could contribute significantly to the planned transformation and better protect people, the environment, and the climate.

Participation in the “Friends of the Chair” group would be an important step by the European Union to advance consensus building among states on the future agreement. In addition, the EU Commission should have clarified the negotiating mandate by the next meeting of the UN Working Group in October 2022.