Launch of the Knowledge-Sharing Platform (KSP)

 

Launch of KSP

November 29th of this year marked the official launch of the Knowledge-Sharing Platform (KSP). The KSP is a website which was developed by the Republic of Korea, CTED and the ICT4Peace Foundation in an effort against counter-terrorism online. The website includes a collection of tools and resources to support efforts of startups and small technology companies to strengthen their response to terrorist exploitation on the Internet. Through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), major technological companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube develop technological counter-terrorism solutions, promote research and share knowledge. These solutions will then be implemented in the KSP’s Techn Against Terrorism (TaT) initiative.

Michèle Coninsx, the Executive Director of the CTED announced how through partnerships with GIFCT, startup tech companies, civil society organizations and academia will create efficiency and strengthen counter-terrorist efforts. Coninsx further stated that while the complete removal of terrorist content is not achievable, the KSA will protect the right to privacy online and offline as well as promoting a comprehensive approach to the problem.

However, many of the speakers also mentioned how the threat of terrorism is evolving online. There is a possibility that ISIL will create their own social media platform, and to counter this, specialists need to further strengthen efforts.

Subsequently, there was a presentation from Weibo representative Gu Haiyan, where cybercrime and cyber security efforts in the US were compared with those from China. Haiyan commented on how the Internet was the new bedfield of terrorism, and how social media and technology were frequently used to recruit troops, organize and direct people. Haiyan suggested a stronger implementation of anti-terrorism law, and added prohibitions on internet accounts to combat online threats.

Meeting: Launch of the Knowledge-Sharing Platform (KSP)

Date/Location: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017; 10:00-13:00; Conference Room 1, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers: Mr. Weixiong Chen, Deputy Executive Director of CTED, Mr. Cho Tae-yul, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, Michéle Coninsx, Executive Director of CTED, Susan Molinari, Vice-President of Public Policy and Government Relations at Google, Mr. Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, Mr. Oliver Marc Zehnder, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations, Mr. Daniel Stauffacher, President of ICT4Peace Foundation, Mr. Adam Hadley, Project Director of the ICT4Peace Foundation, Mr. Marc Porret, ICT Coordinator of CTED, Mr. Miguel Sánchez SV, Global Chief Security Officer of Telefonica, Ms. Gu Haiyan, General Legal Counsel of Weibo, Dr. Erin Marie Saltman, Policy Manager of Facebook, Dr. David Scharia, Director of CTED, Mr. Jeff Collins, Vice President of After School, Ms. Kate Hotten, EMEA Compliance Officer, Ms. Jessica Kallberg, Policy Manager at Etsy

Written By: WIT Representative June Hong

 

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Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

 

The “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights” meeting focussed on a new mandate that addresses the importance of combating terrorism while at the same time protecting human rights and putting a special view on gender inclusivity.  F. Ni Aolain of Ireland, who was recently promoted to Special Rapporteur, was responsible for writing this mandate.

human rights

Council of Europe

The Special Rapporteur outlined four key points regarding the pressing issues of terrorism and human rights.  First, the normalization of atrocities will not help solve the issue of terrorism and will only exacerbate the problem.  Additionally, an excessive amount of laws is not always effective and can often create arbitrariness and inconsistencies.  Also, the advancement of a civil society is threatened by terrorism and the rights of people, especially marginal groups, are at risk.  Lastly, efficiency of counter terrorism involves taking gender into account, specifically how women are impacted by extremism and how first-hand accounts from victims of terrorism are essential for global discussions.

The Netherlands, Norway, Ireland, Belgium, and Mexico all similarly asked for elaboration on the role of civil society in preventing radicalization and terrorism.  Some countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Iraq, and Qatar all voiced their unique and localized perspective on terrorism and human rights.  Finally, various other countries viewed the pre-existing human rights measures of the United Nations as sufficient enough and saw the mandate as repetitive.

The Special Rapporteur responded by reiterating that the mandate will specifically address human rights protection and that civil societies have the power and responsibility to help lessen terrorism.  The Special Rapporteur also stated that including victims’ accounts, especially women’s perspectives, will provide a more effective forum to mitigate terrorism and promote human rights protections.

Meeting title: Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Date/Location: Wednesday, October 18, 2017; 10:00-13:00; Conference Room 1, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers: Madame F. Ni Aolain, Special Rapporteur

Written by: David Jansen

 

 

Addressing​ ​the​ ​Climate​ ​Change-Migration​ ​Nexus​ ​and​ ​its Implications​ ​for​ ​Peace​ ​and​ ​Security​ ​in​ ​Africa

In observance of Africa Week 2017, the African Union Permanent Observer Mission introduced the issue of climate change and its implications on migration, peace, and stability in Africa, seemingly in an effort to garner international support/funding.

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Credit: OSAA /Africa Week 2017 (  )

The Moderator Mba stated that despite Africa’s minimal contribution to the issue of climate change, the continent remains extremely vulnerable to the environmental effects it causes. He claimed that these effects, such as desertification, flooding, and other natural disasters, threaten food stability and lead to forced migration, violent conflicts, and an increased presence of extremism in African nations. For this reason, he urged that climate change and Africa’s instability be seen as linked issues.

Many speakers cited the desertification and subsequent rise in migration and extremism in the Lake Chad region as an example of this climate change-migration nexus. Mr. Jason Lamin, a representative of the private sector, suggested that Africa’s weak infrastructure exacerbates the issue, and that investment in Africa would greatly improve the situation. Ms. Vera Songwe’s remarks echoed those of Mr. Lamin, claiming that while Africa has the resources to be a sound investment for the world, political advocacy must be done to secure these investments.

Others, such as Ms. Carla Mucavi, favored a home-grown solution, suggesting an inclusive rural transformation that would create jobs, strengthen food security, and reduce rural poverty. In light of the focus on migration, Mr. Ashraf El Nour noted that migration has been historically positive for Africa, but that the forced nature of the migration caused by climate change is what leads to regional conflicts. All speakers seemed to agree on the urgency of this issue, and the responsibility of organizations such as the UN to come up with a sustainable solution.

Meeting:​ ​​High-level​ ​event​ ​on​ ​—​ ​​“Addressing​ ​the​ ​Climate​ ​Change-Migration​ ​Nexus​ ​and​ ​its Implications​ ​for​ ​Peace​ ​and​ ​Security​ ​in​ ​Africa”

Date/Location:​ ​​Thursday,​ ​October​ ​19,​ ​2017;​ ​10:00-13:00;​ ​Economic​ ​and​ ​Social​ ​Council Chamber,​ ​United​ ​Nations​ ​Headquarters,​ ​New​ ​York,​ ​NY

Speakers:

  • H.E.​ ​Mr.​ ​Anatolio​ ​Ndong​ ​Mba,​ ​Moderator,​ ​Permanent​ ​Representative​ ​of​ ​Equatorial​ ​Guinea​ ​to the​ ​United​ ​States;
  • H.E.​ ​Ms.​ ​Liberata​ ​Mulamula,​ ​Visiting​ ​Scholar​ ​and​ ​Acting​ ​Director​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Institute​ ​for​ ​African Studies​ ​at​ ​the​ ​George​ ​Washington​ ​University
  • H.E.​ ​Prof.​ ​Victor​ ​Harison,​ ​Commissioner​ ​for​ ​Economic​ ​Affairs,​ ​African​ ​Union​ ​Commission H.E.​ ​Prof.​ ​Fatma​ ​Zohra​ ​Karadja,​ ​Member,​ ​African​ ​Peer​ ​Review​ ​Panel​ ​of​ ​Eminent​ ​Persons
  • Mr.​ ​Achim​ ​Steiner,​ ​Administrator,​ ​United​ ​Nations​ ​Development​ ​Programme
  • Mr.​ ​Ashraf​ ​El​ ​Nour,​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Liaison​ ​Office​ ​Director,​ ​Food​ ​and​ ​Agriculture​ ​Organization​ ​for Migration
  • Ms.​ ​Carla​ ​Mucavi,​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Liaison​ ​Office​ ​Director,​ ​Food​ ​and​ ​Agriculture​ ​Organization​ ​of​ ​the United​ ​Nations
  • Mr.​ ​Jason​ ​Lamin,​ ​Founder​ ​and​ ​Chief​ ​Executive​ ​Officer,​ ​Lenox​ ​Park​ ​Solutions
  • Mr.​ ​Jamil​ ​Ahmad,​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Liaison​ ​Office​ ​Deputy​ ​Director,​ ​United​ ​Nations​ ​Environment Programme
  • Ms.​ ​Vera​ ​Songwe,​ ​Executive​ ​Secretary,​ ​United​ ​Nations​ ​Economic​ ​Commission​ ​for​ ​Africa

Written​ ​By:​ ​​WIT​ ​Representative​ ​Andrea Estrella

Towards a Pollution Free Planet

Towards Pollution free planet

UN Environment Assembly

In response to the growing environmental pollution dilemma, the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) presented to meeting attendee’s diverse effects of pollution on our ecosystem, as well as upcoming environmental literacy events in order to build momentum for tackling this global challenge.

Mr. Harrisbegan the open-ended meeting by introducing a variety of global pollutant factors that harm human health. These include: Poor air quality, Exposure to lead, Exposure to asbestos, Polluted water and inadequate sanitation, and Exposure to pesticides.  Mr. Harris also revealed how pollution harms ecosystems, listing contaminated crops, the disruption of pollinating insects, marine pollution and the 500 “dead zone” regions as examples.

In addition, Mr. Harris referenced to multiple upcoming open-ended sessions hosted by the UNEP regarding its pollution-free goal. These include: “Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum”, “Science, Policy and Business Forum”, “Sustainable Innovation Expo”.

In addition, Mr. Harris claims that throughout these various sessions, the UNEP will: Identify and promote opportunities for green investments; Explain connection between science and environmental solutions; Facilitate partnerships with investors.

A question was asked regarding the number of current prime ministers registered to participate in the listed upcoming sessions.  Mr. Harris revealed that 69 ministers have currently registered, and that he anticipates many more by November.  A suggestion was made to include an African storyteller in the upcoming sessions.  I questioned the initiatives taken to include youth in these open-ended sessions and educate them regarding the current environmental issues.  Mr. Harris alluded to the recent social media initiatives taken by his organization.

Meeting: Open-Ended Meeting on — “Towards a Pollution Free Planet”

Date/Location: Thursday, November 16, 2017; 10:00-11:30; Conference Room #12, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers: Mr. Elliott C. Harris, Moderator, UN Assistant Secretary-General Director

Written By: WIT Representative Timothy Stephens

 

 

Ending impunity for crimes against journalists: strengthening implementation and the case of women journalists

UNESCO, the Permanent Mission of Greece, and the New York Group of Friends on the Safety of Journalists held a panel discussion to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. This discussion was about the increasing violence against journalists, focusing on female journalists.

Ms.Theofili discussed how an increase in gender based violence and discrimination makes women leave the field of journalism because of fear. This deprives them of their freedom of speech and deprives society of their views and voice. Ms. Menendez communicated how vital freedom of expression and press is because without informed citizens, corruption will thrive. She said that between 2006-2016, 900 journalists were killed, and 90% of these cases remain unresolved, relating back to impunity.

Mr.La Rue focused on three main points of the UN Plan of Action of Safety of Journalists: prevention, protection in moments of immediate violence, and prosecution including conducting full investigations in all cases. Also, he talked about how SDG 16 is focused on freedom of speech, but full access to information is essential to all goals. Mrs. Basu showed a clip from her documentary and mentioned that journalists are the bridge between society and democracies.

Impunity

Ms. Wickrematunge shared her personal story of being followed and how her husband was killed because of his reporting. After his death, she had a target on her back; even within the news world there was a systematic need to suppress her. She said the panel did a good job of humanizing journalism, dispelling the idea that journalists are asking for it because they put their lives on the line with their choice of career. Ms. Ferrier emphasized how social media saturates the consequences for speaking truth because online perpetrators act boldly without fear of repercussions.

Meeting:  Panel Discussion on —“Ending impunity for crimes against journalists: strengthening implementation and the case of women journalists”

Date/Location: Thursday, November 2, 2017; 13:15-14:45; Conference Room 8, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers: Ms. Penelope Manis, Senior Director of Programming, CNN International; Ms. Maria Theofili, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN; Ms.Ana Maria Menendez, Under-Secretary-General for Policy, Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General; Mr.Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO; Ms. Nupur Basu, Independent journalist and documentary filmmaker from India; Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge, award winning investigative journalist and editor from Sri Lanka; Ms. Judy Taing, Senior Officer on Gender and Sexuality, ARTICLE 19; Ms. Michelle Ferrier, Associate Professor in E.W Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University; Mr. Christophe Deloire, Director-General of Reporters Without Borders; Ms. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

Written By: WIT Representative Nicole Matsanov

COP 23 – Private Sector Engagement Critical to Combat Climate Change

Meeting: Enhancing Resilience of and Crowding in Public and Private Investment for Climate Change Adaptation

Date/Location: November 8, 2017, 10:30 – 12:00, UNDP Pavilion – Bonn Zone, COP 23

Speakers: Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head of Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit, UNDP; Head of Environmental Protection Department of Bosnia; Representative of Malawi; Representative from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)

Written By: Marli Kasdan

Over the last two weeks at COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, one consistent theme was the need to harness private sector investment in order to meet the ambitious goals set out in the Paris Agreement. The UNDP pavilion held a side event on how different types of private sector actors can and should be included in the climate change adaptation agenda. The meeting began with Mr. Kurukulasuriya from UNDP giving opening remarks about the need to harness private sector engagement to combat climate change, with a focus on the reality that the climate change problem cannot be solved with public money alone. A stable policy environment and governments who are willing to actively engage with private sector actors can help leverage private finance and pave the way for larger funding streams to come into developing countries to be used for climate change adaptation.

The Head of the Environmental Protection Department of Bosnia continued the discussion by emphasizing that bringing in private sector finance for climate change adaptation should be linked with the broader Sustainable Development agenda in order to engage with private sector actors who may already be involved with sustainable development but have not yet realized the benefits of working in the climate change area. Furthermore, the Representative of Malawi spoke about how the private sector can engage with local actors to produce technology driven climate change adaptation solutions. In Malawi, an effort is underway where mobile phone operating companies are working with the agricultural sector to use telecommunication services to disseminate information for early warning systems that track climate induced hazards which affect farmers, such as droughts. Malawi has policies in place that create an enabling environment for private sector investment in climate change adaptation strategies, and it presents a good example of how country governments can engage with the private sector to find solutions to climate change challenges.

The meeting concluded with a representative from FAO speaking about FAO’s work with farmers, fishermen, and rural entrepreneurs. An emphasis was made surrounding the gender gap in the private sector, and how women’s enterprises are valuable private sector actors. Overall, this event highlighted the need for private sector investment for climate change adaptation, and demonstrated that governments working with private sector actors, such as the telecommunications companies in Malawi, can produce innovative solutions to meet climate change adaptation challenges.

COP 23 – Transformational Adaptation Solutions to Combat Climate Change

Meeting: Catalyzing Innovative Solutions and Transformational Adaptation to Climate Change

Date/Location: November 9, 2017, UNDP Pavilion – Bonn Zone, COP 23

Speakers: Mr. Saleem Huq, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD); Representative of Colombia; Dr. Stacy-Ann Robinson, Brown University

Written By: Marli Kasdan

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With COP coming to a close at the end of the last week a noticeable theme throughout the negotiations and side events was on transformation – the notion that a fundamental change in the way we tackle climate change is needed if we are going to meet the Paris Agreement target of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. With current emission levels as they stand now, the world is not on track to meet this ambitious goal. However, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental aspect to combat global warming, adaptation to the increased risks posed by climate change induced threats, such as severe droughts, floods, cyclones, etc., is of equal importance. To address this issue, the UNDP pavilion held an event on the need for transformational and innovative solutions for climate change adaptation.

The event began with remarks from Saleem Huq from ICCAD, who focused his remarks on how the Green Climate Fund (GCF) could be used as a catalyst for transformational change, but the way they solicit projects with short term funding and a short term outlook prevents the GCF from helping to drive any true transformation. Mr. Huq emphasized that investment in a time bound project cannot be transformational because transformation involves the generational change of societies, and it means investing in the next generation who can deliver on transformation. In line with this, Mr. Huq emphasized the need for a paradigm shift in the GCF to allow room for experimentation and longer term investment in projects for climate change adaptation.

The meeting continued with the Representative from Colombia, highlighting similar issues with the GCF surrounding whether or not it helps to drive transformational change. GCF projects are based on 5-year funding cycles, and it is unlikely that transformational change can be produced in such a short window. The point was also made that there is no common definition surrounding transformation, making projects that could produce transformation difficult to implement when actors do not even agree on a shared vision of transformation.

The meeting concluded with Dr. Robinson, who presented some of her most recent research on climate change resilience and transformation. Her research found that the concept of transformation is donor driven, meaning that the donor agencies, development banks, and multilateral institutions that fund climate and development projects are driving the agenda surrounding transformational change for climate change adaptation. This is problematic because donors typically fund projects on 5-year funding cycles. Dr. Robinson was critical in her analysis of the likelihood for transformational change to take effect in a 5-year time span. This demonstrates that transformational change to meet the adaptation needs of developing countries to deal with the effects of climate change need to take the long view by having longer funding cycles and more inclusion of project recipients in the planning and agenda driving phase.

COP 23 – Focus on Youth and Women Investment in Land to Combat Climate Change

Meeting: Youth and Women Investing in Land and Value Addition on Natural Resources to Mitigate Climate Change

Date/Location: November 9, 2017, 4:30 – 6:00, UNDP Pavilion – Bonn Zone, COP 23

Speakers: Mr. Dennis Garrity, Drylands Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification; Dr. Gemedo Dale, Minister of Environmental, Forest, and Climate Change of Ethiopia; Rémi Hémeryck, Director General, SOS Sahel; Ms. Yoko Watanabe, Global Manger, Small Grants Program (UNDP); Representative from Burkina Faso, National Coordinator of the Great Green Wall Initiative; Small Grants Program, Advisor on Land Degradation, Forest Management, and Community Based Adaptation (UNDP)

Written By: Marli Kasdan

Last week at COP, a side event was held at the UNDP pavilion on youth and women investment in land and natural resources for climate change mitigation, where UN experts, country representatives, and NGO leaders came together to discuss climate change and its strain on food security and smallholder farmers in Africa, and how investment in land is an effective way to combat this issue and make food security more sustainable. The meeting began with Mr. Garrity, the Drylands Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, making a statement on the need to map and collect data on the expansion of farmer managed land practices. He explained how women farmers and youth are using these practices to increase acacia tree cover on their farms, which improves the land quality and provides households with raw materials to harvest from the trees. Next, the Minister of Environment of Ethiopia, Dr. Gemedo, gave a statement on the need for range land restoration in Ethiopia, where technology and market linkages are a priority, along with grassroots level community organization that builds on existing indigenous knowledge for sustainable land management.

The meeting continued with Mr. Hémeryck, the Director General of SOS Sahel, (an NGO that works on land restoration in the Sahel region of Africa) who spoke about SOS Sahel’s work in Ethiopia, where the organization supports 500,000 youth farmers in land rehabilitation, and its work in Burkina Faso, where SOS Sahel supports 8,000 women in their agro-forestry land management system, which improves soil quality and generates income for these women. Mr. Hémeryck stated that their organization does not delegate solutions from the top down, rather they work to support farmer-driven initiatives. Furthermore, Ms. Watanabe, the Global Manager for UNDP’s Small Grants Program (SGP), announced its new partnership with SOS Sahel, where the two organizations will work closely to improve sustainable land management and agro-ecology through community based solutions.

Next, another partnership was announced by the representative from Burkina Faso, who reported on Burkina Faso’s partnership with SOS Sahel to work together on programs for mobilization of resources, development of service centers, and land regeneration techniques. The meeting concluded with the SGP Advisor on Land Degradation, Forest Management, and Community Based Adaptation giving a statement on SGP’s main areas of work, which include $135 million in grants and more than $152 million in co-financing to support projects in the areas of agro-ecology and agro-business, sustainable forest management, technology for water and energy use production systems, and pasture rehabilitation and rangeland management. As the effects of climate change in the Sahel region become more severe with an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts that cause food crises and collapse of ecosystems, sustainable land management will continue to be of the utmost importance for improving livelihoods in the Sahel region.

Focus on Least Developed Countries at COP 23

Meeting: Work of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) in Supporting the LDCs on Adaptation

Date/Location: November 7, 2017, 6:30 – 8:00, Room 9 – Bonn Zone, COP 23

Speakers: Gerbru Jewber, Chair of the LDC; Aderito Santana, Member of the LEG; Pa Ousman Jarju, GCF Secretariat; Chizuru Aoki, GEF Secretariat; Alpha Jallow, Representative from The Gambia

Written By: Marli Kasdan

COP 23

COP 23 – the UN yearly climate change conference kicked off in Bonn, Germany last week, where heads of state, NGOs, academics, and private sector partners all came together to discuss the threat of climate change and solutions to keep global average temperature rise below 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. One of the primary issues at the conference is how least developed countries (LDCs) should deal with climate change – a problem they had little hand in creating, yet suffer disproportionally from. The Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) was formed at COP 7 in Marrakesh to help LDCs navigate the issue of climate change within the climate negotiations. To give an update on their work, the LEG met the first day of COP to discuss their work in supporting LDCs on adaptation.

According to the UNFCCC, adaptation “refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts.” With this definition as a background, the meeting began with Mr. Jewber, Chair of the LDC, who stressed that adaptation is a priority for vulnerable countries to climate change, yet finance, technology, and capacity for adaptation activities are extremely limited. Most climate finance is skewed towards mitigation, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), rather than adaptation. Mr. Santana, a member of the LEG, continued the meeting by discussing the LEG’s vision to provide support to countries to achieve better adaptation planning and processes in their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), with finance from the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Thus far, GCF approval rates for NAP funding have been incredibly slow – only 5 NAPs have been approved so far and only 2 have actually received their GCF funds (Liberia and Nepal), although other countries’ NAPs are in the pipeline for approval.

Mr. Jariu from the GCF Secretariat responded by saying that the GCF has received 38 NAP proposals as of October 2017, with 15 of these coming from LDCs, and that the GCF is focusing on quality of planning and increased guidance and knowledge sharing in its review and approval of NAPs. Next, the UNFCCC Secretariat made a statement affirming its support for the work of the LEG, and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) gave a statement outlining its 24 projects that are in the pipeline for implementation in LDCs in the amount of $170.5 million. The meeting concluded with a representative from The Gambia who gave his view on adaptation planning and finance, which included challenges related to low financing and weak national capacity for implementation. Issues surrounding adaptation financing at COP will continue to be a highly debated topic, and LDCs will only be able to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement if appropriate funding that includes more finance for adaptation is mobilized.

Drafting a Treaty to Regulate Transnational Corporations and Human Rights

Meeting: Open Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights

Date/Location: 23 October, 2017, 15:00 – 18:00; Building E Room 20, Palais Nations

Speakers: State representatives from Nicaragua, the Philippines, Russia, Egypt, Cuba, Algeria, Bolivia, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Chile, Norway, Switzerland, Australia; NGO Representatives from the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers

By: Marli Kasdan

 

Last week the Human Rights Council (HRC) convened a meeting to discuss the drafting of a new, legally binding treaty on states’ obligations in regard to the regulation of transnational corporations (TNCs) and human rights. The discussion centered around how, if at all, states should regulate TNCs and their human rights practices through a legally binding treating.

The first two statements during the general debate from Nicaragua and the Philippines expressed their support for a legally binding instrument that obligates states to regulate TNC business practices and human rights. The statements emphasized the need for victims of human rights abuses at the hands of TNCs to have access to legal recourse. However, Russia’s statement focused on the need to fully implement the existing UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (which include regulations surrounding TNCs and human rights), instead of creating a new legally binding treaty. Further comments during the debate paralleled these two opposing viewpoints – with some states taking the position that a legally binding treaty is needed to establish a compliance mechanism and ensure that TNCs do not regularly violate human rights with impunity, while other states took the view that the existing UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights already outline these provisions and are sufficient.

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Statements from Egypt, Cuba, Algeria, Bolivia, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Chile supported the creation of a legally binding instrument, citing the need for states to regulate TNC activities in order to protect human rights and provide access to justice for people whose rights are violated. Furthermore, the statement from Bolivia emphasized the unbalanced regulation in the current legal framework, where TNCs have required binding laws to protect their investments in the form of international arbitration clauses for decades, but no binding norms exist to protect human rights from abuse by TNCs.

Nevertheless, many states, including Norway, Switzerland, and Australia, emphasized the need to work within the existing Guiding Principles, which are based on years of consensus building between states, businesses, and human rights advocates, and already cover provisions for protecting human rights from TNC abuses (albeit in a non-legally binding way). These statements emphasized that a focus on the creation of a new instrument has the potential to detract from the implementation of the Guiding Principles, which are already firmly established. These statements also expressed concern that the proposed treaty would only regulate states’ obligations surrounding TNC activities, as opposed to a wider variety of businesses.

Unsurprisingly, leaders of pro-business NGOs, including the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers, expressed their reluctance for the creation of a treaty. In line with statements made by state delegations against the creation of a treaty, international business leaders expressed concern that this treaty would only cover TNCs and not other types of businesses, including domestic businesses. However, domestic businesses are already covered by domestic law, underscoring the need for the creation of a legally binding instrument to regulate TNCs within international law because TNCs often fall into a legal grey area when it comes to state regulation since they operate in multiple countries.