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FOCUS - Human Rights N. 3 - 29/12/2017

 The General Comment No. 24 (2017) on State obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of business activities

The increasing impact of business activities on the effectiveness of human rights does not need to be exemplified. The major challenge concerns the activities of transnational corporations which, crossing national borders, defy the traditional paradigms of states’ obligations and responsibility stemming from international human rights Treaties. The great deal of attention payed to this topic by the United Nations, which traces back to the promotion of a “New International Economic Order” in the 1970s, has knowing a new important phase since the mid-1990s, along with the increase of economic globalisation and its growing impact. In this regard, it is relevant to recall the Global Compact, launched in 1999 by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the draft of Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprise with regard to Human Rights, approved in 2003 by the United Nations Sub- Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. A fundamental milestone is represented by the work carried out by Professor John Ruggie, who in 2005 was appointed as UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. In 2008, the Special Rapporteur proposed its final Report focused on Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights. The Framework identified three pillars: the state duty to protect human rights from abuses perpetrated by transnational corporations and other business enterprises, the corporate responsibility to respect all human rights, and the necessity to assure access to effective remedies, including through appropriate judicial or non-judicial mechanisms. Following the renew of the mandate in the view to assure an implementation of the three principles defined framework, Professor Ruggie further developed the Framework, and in 2011 elaborated the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council. The adoption of the UN Guiding Principles encouraged the promotion of some meaningful initiatives aiming to develop the reflection on business and human rights at the international level. It is worth recalling in particular the 2014 Resolution of the Human Rights Council establishing the open-ended intergovernmental working group tasked with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument aiming to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises in international human rights law. As stated by the Resolution, in the light of discussions taking place on the content, scope, nature and form of the future international instrument during the first (6-10 July 2015) and second sessions (24-28 October 2017) of the working group, the Chairperson-Rapporteur would have elaborated the Elements for the draft legally binding instrument. This text has been employed as the basis for negotiations during the third session of the working group, which held from 23 to 27 October 2017... (segue)

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