Formal negotiations on the planned UN agreement on business and human rights will begin next Monday in Geneva. In a legal opinion published on Thursday for Misereor and other European development agencies, international business law expert Markus Krajewski from the University of Nuremberg-Erlangen describes the present draft as a clear “appropriate and sufficient basis” for the upcoming negotiations.
Misereor Managing Director Pirmin Spiegel criticizes the EU’s refusal to take part in the negotiations: “The EU and the German government can no longer avoid negotiations on this agreement, which would improve the protection of human rights in the global economy under international law. Even as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the EU has an ongoing responsibility here. “
According to Pirmin Spiegel, a UN agreement could help prevent avoidable disasters such as the dam breach in the iron ore mine in Brumadinho, Brazil on January 25, 2019, in which 272 people were killed and the region was contaminated with 13 million cubic meters of toxic sewage sludge. “Exactly 1,000 days have passed since the dam broke, and affected families are still dying for compensation and an apology from the current company.” Nevertheless, the Brazilian subsidiary of TÜV Süd made the declaration of stability for the dam and VALE continued the mining activities there. Together with five surviving dependents, Misereor and ECCHR therefore filed criminal charges against TÜV Süd and an employee. The investigation is still ongoing.
Commitment to the human rights treaty in business
As early as 2014, the UN Human Rights Council gave an intergovernmental working group the mandate to develop an instrument under international law to protect human rights in business. The EU and the German government want to take part in the working group meeting, but expressly do not want to take part in the negotiations. “For seven years, the EU has been trying to slow down the human rights treaty process. It is precisely in the European interest to avoid competitive disadvantages for the European economy through international human rights standards, ”explains Armin Paasch, human rights expert at Misereor. German companies will be obliged to respect human rights and environmental standards in the supply chain as early as 2023, and an EU regulation is also being prepared. Paasch also criticizes the fact that the EU has not submitted an analysis or suggestions for improvement for any draft, but at the same time complains about the alleged quality of the current draft. The new legal opinion by Prof. Krajewski deprives this argumentation of any basis. The federal government also called for more commitment: “In the coalition agreement, the future federal government should make a clear commitment to the agreement and advocate an ambitious negotiating mandate in the EU.”
(pm – mg)