Press Briefing: Securing Government of Ghana's Support to the ongoing process of negotiating a UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human rights


Story by Carlos Afanou

For long, civil society organizations, social movement and affected peoples for across the globe have been demanding stronger and binding rules for corporations, who are currently not regulated in international human rights legislation. Until now, only voluntary mechanisms and guidelines are in place, and these have been failing to hold these corporations accountable when they commit human rights violations or destroy the environment.

Beginning of 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed a resolution (UNCHR Resolution 26/9 , cosponsored by the government of Ecuador and South Africa) to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG) with the mandate of elaborating a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. Between 2015 and 2019, 5 annual sessions of this OEIGWG took place, and a 6th session is scheduled for October 2020.

In 2017, Global Interparliamentary Network made up of three hundred (300) MPs and MEPs worldwide initiated support to the UN Binding Treaty.

2018 saw the Zero Draft of the Binding Treaty , published on 20th July, 2018. The Presidency of OEIGWG followed this up with the release of the First Revised Draft in June 2019.

In 2020, States and Civil Society were given up-to 29th February , to submit their comments on the First Revised Draft to the OEIGWG. Between April and May, the Presidency of the OEIGWG convened intersessional consultations with various stakeholders, including experts and civil society representative . In August, the Second Revised Draft of the UN Binding Treaty was published by the OEIGWG Presidency. Several civil society actors and experts have Campaign to Stop  Corporate Impunity, a network of more than 200 organizations, social movements and representatives of several sectors of civil society. As highlighted by many the impacts of transnational corporations occur, the current draft is still very weak and will not be effective in regulating these actors, especially taking into account the complexity of their global value chains and the asymmetry of power between these corporations and the affected peoples.

As we head towards the 6th sessions of negotiations, that is planned for the 24th to 31st of October, 2020 , that will happen amidst the global COVID-19 and related crises, it is imperative that civil society comes together to express support for this process, and pressure their governments to ensure an active and constructive engagement aimed at strengthening the current draft of the treaty.

In recent past, we witnessed the global demand for bio-fuel (cf. Kyoto Protocol 1997, 2006 fuel crisis and EU 2030 Agenda) as well as 2007 to 2008 also saw the global food crisis that led to high food prices. These two incidence led to large-scale acquisition of land at the expense of the locals or indigenes for food and bio-fuel production in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, South East Asia by countries such as UAE, USA, UK, Israel, South Korea etc......

The emanating effects include food crops cleared, loss of jobs and income ; water bodies polluted, forest destroyed without proper afforestation programme  and land left in worse from without reclamation programme.

This impunity of TNCs and the revolt of the affected indigenes have led to an international call on the UN and State Governments to bring to order through a binding treaty the activities of these TNCs and the responsibilities of the States involved.

This clarion call resonates strongly with the Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudatory Si to safeguard the rights of individuals and communities and the preservation of our common home, the environment and planet. The Episcopal Conferences of Catholic Bishops in Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), in collaboration with their Brother Bishops in Europe, have called for support for the Binding Treaty. In February 2020, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) also called for countey-level actions to secure their respective Government's support for the Binding Treaty. In early September 2020, the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference had audience with His Excellency, the President of Ghana and urged his Government to support the Binding Treaty as a way of bringing Corporate Bodies under check .

As a network of global campaigners (COSs, FBOs and affected communities) resisting the land grabs, extractive mining, exploitative wages and environmental destruction of transnational corporations (TNCs) particularly in Africa, we would like to use this platform to mobilize global support for the Binding Treaty. We seek to bring to the fore the need for the State to committedly sign on to the proposed UN Binding Treaty to give rights to affected communities to reclaim their sovereignty by reaffirming the hierarchical superiority of their human rights norms over trade and investment treaties, dismantle TNCs over-arching power and stop the impunity which emanate from their activities.

The root cause of this problem stems from:

. Monopolizing of lands of cultivation by transnational corporations and states, which deprives farmers of their livelihood, identity, and heritage;

.Exploitative wages to the farmers who have transferred their land to these TNCs;

.Open disrespect of the farmers/indigenes' human rights, land

.Environmental destruction of lands acquired by these transnational corporations (TNCs).

.Disregard for national regulations on land reclamation when they even exist.

This issue is directly affecting peasant farmers in view of land being central to their life, livelihoods, identity, heritage and food security (cf. Laudato Si 146). We see this problem at Okumaning (Eastern Region), Babator (Savanna Region) and Brewaniase (Oti Region), and all the mining communities in Ghana.

The overall objective of the Press Briefing is to heighten awareness about the UN Binding Treaty process and how we can influence the Government of Ghana to support the Treaty.

It also seeks to strengthen collaborations and partnership among church and non -church actors to put social pressure on international policymaking bodies to hold transnational corporations accountable for their investment policies and ensure access to justice and respect for human rights.


.Sir Edward Alloysius Prah

.Hajia Ayishetu Abdul-Kadiri

.Sir Ben Assorow

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