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The U.S. Government’s Opposition to the Business and Human Rights Treaty Process
October 26, 2020


The U.S. Government’s Opposition to the Business and Human Rights Treaty Process 

The U.S. government will not participate in the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) session this week on the articulation of business and human rights treaty.  We continue to oppose this treaty based on its substance and the process around its development.   

These treaty negotiations have been contentious and run contrary to the consensus-based, multi-stakeholder approach laid out by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) – a framework for preventing and addressing adverse human rights impacts that involve business activity.  There remain a host of substantive concerns with the treaty including, but not limited to, its imposition of binding obligations on all parties; its extraterritorial application of domestic laws; and its broad criminal liability for an undefined range of human rights abuses. 

We appreciate the concerns raised by some civil society participants, including those regarding access to remedy, that have motivated support for the treaty process.  However, we believe that the one-size-fits-allheavy-handed, and prescriptive approacset out by this draft treaty is not the best way to address these legitimate issues.  The U.S. government is open to exploring alternative approaches that align with the UNGPs developed in collaboration with, and that ultimately reflect broad consensus of, businesses, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders.  Anything less risks undermining, rather than furthering, the important work the international community has made on the UNGPs. 

June 2021 will mark one decade since the UNGPs were endorsed by consensus at the UN Human Rights Council.  In this time, governments, civil society, and business have built strong foundations for the UNGPs and made important advances in disseminating good practice.  The U.S. government looks forward to collaborating with the UN Business and Human Rights Working Group in its project to assess existing gaps and challenges and develop a strong vision for the next decade.   We are confident that this concerted effort will help shape a strong agenda for years to come and that we will continue to build upon the remarkable progress made possible by the consensus-based approach of the UNGPs. 

The U.S. government released public statements in 2018 and 2019 on the margins of the OEIGWG treaty negotiations articulating our opposition to this treaty process.