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A Business and Human Rights Treaty

Since June 2014, an intergovernmental working group (IGWG) has been tasked with elaborating a treaty on transnational corporations and human rights. Ahead of the IGWG’s third session, draft elements were released, offering a basis for discussion amongst States and key stakeholders.

The Global Business Initiative on Human Rights’ (GBI) team has been actively monitoring the IGWG’s work – and the dialogue amongst leading thinkers across the business and human rights movement about the need for and best focus of a business and human rights treaty.

To assist business practitioners to develop a clear understanding of these developments, the GBI team shared two resources in 2014:


GBI shared further thoughts on business engagement with this process during a session of the 2015 UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights.

Three years have elapsed since the IGWG commenced work, and the GBI team’s key messages for business remain relevant:

  • Remain focused on implementation of respect for human rights. Do not get side tracked by the politics around the treaty drafting process.
  • Demonstrate results, however initial or partial, of efforts to implement respect for human rights – and when doing so, be proactive about explaining the benefits of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
  • Encourage action on the government pillar of the UNGPs, both at home and around the world where you do business.
  • Engage constructively on “access to remedy”, especially via processes that take a multistakeholder and evidence-based approach to building solutions.
  • If your company is not yet taking concrete steps to implement respect for human rights in practice – start the journey now with simple initial steps.

Now is the time to engage. If business leaders have ideas about how an international treaty could help achieve meaningful progress towards the transformative vision of the UNGPs, there are opportunities to contribute to this process.