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General / Thematic: Business and Human Rights: The Limits of the Law

Negotiating a Treaty on Business and Human Rights: The Early Stages


Humberto Cantu Rivera

The idea of subjecting corporations to some sort of international obligation, particularly in the field of human rights, is not new;[1] different processes and ways of doing this have been debated since the 1970s, when a proposed all-encompassing Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations was pushed through the ranks of the United Nations (‘UN’) Commission on Transnational Corporations.[2]

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(2017) 40(3) UNSWLJ 1200:

  1. For a brief summary of previous initiatives on this issue, notably in relation to human rights, see Olivier De Schutter, ‘The Challenge of Imposing Human Rights Norms on Corporate Actors’ in Olivier De Schutter (ed), Transnational Corporations and Human Rights (Hart Publishing, 2006) 1, 3.
  2. Letter Dated 31 May 1990 from the Chairman of the Reconvened Special Session of the Commission on Transnational Corporations to the President of the Economic and Social Council, UN ESCOR, UN Doc E/1990/94 (12 June 1990) annex (‘Proposed Text on the Draft Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations‘). This project included provisions relating to respect for national sovereignty and national development objectives, human rights and fundamental freedoms, non-interference in internal affairs of host countries, abstention from corrupt practices, employment conditions, transfer pricing, taxation, consumer protection, environmental protection and transfer of technology, among others.