SUB-COMMISSION EXPERT PRESENTS REPORT OF WORKING GROUP ON TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS



The Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights this afternoon heard an Expert present the report of the Working Group on the working methods and activities of transnational corporations as it continued its debate on issues related to economic, social and cultural rights.

El-Hadji Guisse, Sub-Commission Expert and Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Working Group on the working methods and activities of transnational corporations, said the Working Group was the only body in its field doing work on this topic, and calls for its abolition were incomprehensible, as the work of the Working Group had not concluded and it had not fulfilled its mandate. The imbalance in the world due to the activities of transnational companies continued, and the work of the Working Group was vital in redressing it, he said.

In closing the inter-active dialogue on the study on non-discrimination as enshrined in article 2 paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Sub-Committee Expert Emmanuel Decaux said there should be greater attention paid to vulnerable groups, including the handicapped, the disabled, the aged and others including aliens. He said it was the social status of the economic situation and cultural isolation that were often the true cause of discrimination, and it was the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for all that was important.

The Sub-Commission heard from Sub-Commission Expert Gaspar Biro, as well as a series of non-governmental organizations who addressed grievances related to issues on economic, social and cultural rights. Contributing statements were Japanese Workers Committee for Human Rights; American Association of Jurists; Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation; International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities; International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations; Union des Jurists Arabes; International Federation of Social Workers; International league for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples; Association Tunisienne pour l¡¯Auto-d¨¦veloppement et la Solidarit¨¦; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Indian Council of Education; International Indian Treaty Council; Indigenous World Association; Pax Romana; International Educational Development; Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Action; International Islamic Federation of Students Organizations; and International Institute for Peace.

The representatives of Iraq, Brazil and Sudan also delivered statements, as did a speaker for the World Bank.

When the Sub-Commission reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 5 August, it will conclude its debate on economic, social and cultural rights and will take up its agenda on specific human rights issues including women and human rights; contemporary forms of slavery; and new priorities, in particular terrorism.

Presentation of the Report of the Working Group on the Work and Activities of Transnational Corporations

EL-HADJI GUISSE (Sub-Commission Expert), Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Working Group, said the adoption of standards on responsibilities towards human rights of transnational and other companies only represented one of the aspects of the mandate of the Working Group on the methods of work and activities of transnational corporations. The Working Group had examined first the issue of existing standards and the elaboration of new standards, and then recommendations for future work. The discussion on the first item spread over a large number of subjects, including the regulation of the standards at the national and international levels, the role of treaty bodies and national human rights organizations as potential surveillance mechanisms for the standards, and issues relative to the identification of means of recourse and reparation for violations of human rights committed by transnational corporations. As for the second theme, some participants suggested a new approach to the identification of appropriate mechanisms for the overseeing of standards. Other Experts suggested that the Sub-Commission or the Working Group could develop a legislative model for the implementation of the standards at the national level.

The Working Group was the only body in its field doing work on this topic, and calls for its abolition were incomprehensible, as the work of the Working Group had not concluded, and it had not fulfilled its mandate. The drafting of standards had only been one part of its agenda, and this was why a draft resolution would be submitted to urge the continuance of the work of the Group so that it could examine further mechanisms for the implementation of standards. The imbalance in the world due to the activities of transnational companies continued, and the work of the Working Group was vital in redressing these.

Discussion on Report of Working Group on Transnational Corporations

EMMANUEL DECAUX (Sub-Commission Expert) said Mr. Guiss¨¦ had done an excellent job and the paper he presented attested to his efforts. The Sub-Commission had always done a good job with regards to the issue of transnational corporations collectively. However, he had always found strange the way that the sessional Working Groups of the Sub-Commission functioned. He believed that the time allocated to the meetings of these sessional Working Groups should be used as public plenaries in which the same topics were considered. He had nothing against the Working Group on the work and activities of transnational corporations but it would be better to deal with the issue in a different way.

MITSUE TAKANASHI, of Japanese Workers Committee for Human Rights, said the development of globalization had increased the numbers of workers who had had their dignity as human beings taken away from them and who had committed suicide. The Sub-Commission should collect relevant information on the situation of workers in transnational corporations in order to examine ways to protect the human rights of workers.

ANA VERA VEGA, of American Association of Jurists, said that the problem of corruption had been found to be a universal concern in which transnational corporations were among the causes of the problem. Poor people were the victims of the privatization process in the developing countries, which involved transnational corporations. The World Bank had been fomenting privatization in those countries. Today, the struggle against extreme poverty seemed to cease while people around the world continued to be hungry. The unequal distribution of resources and the privatization of services, such as education, had been intensified, further affecting the poor. Thought should be given to the growing phenomenon of the negative effects of transnational corporations impacting negatively on human rights.

Statements on Issues Related to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

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SIMOS ANGELIDES, of International Federation for the Protection of The Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic & Other Minorities, said economic, social and cultural rights were adequately safeguarded in the Government-controlled areas since the Covenant formed part of the law of Cyprus. This, however, was not the case in the areas which the Government of Cyprus did not control. The right to adequate housing could be considered to be sufficiently protected only when all occupying forces and illegal settlers were withdrawn, and the lawful inhabitants had the unrestricted right to return to their houses and properties and were able to exercise their right to freedom of movement and establishment in an unhindered and unimpeded manner. The deliberate practice of forcible mass population transfers in Cyprus was considered a war crime and a crime against humanity. This and other policies in conjunction with the fact that the victims were targeted on racial and ethnic grounds constituted a form of ethnic cleansing.

PRAMILA SRIVASTAVA, of International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, said it had been estimated that in the world today there were more than a billion people who lacked clean and affordable water and 2.4 billion who lacked sanitation services. Over the last 200 years, most utilities had been publicly owned and managed. Due to the shortage of resources they had not been able to expand to cover the entire population. Inefficiency and corruption had also contributed to the situation. In many cases the quality of the water had not been up to the mark either. However, public owned utilities had still provided relatively clean water at affordable rates to the mass of the citizens.

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MARINA SIKORA, of Transnational Radical Party, said that in 2000, after seven years of work, the Economic and Social Council had established a Permanent Forum to discuss indigenous issues relating to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. Overwhelmed by a variety of topics, the Forum had never addressed an issue that was crucial to many indigenous groups: that of the coca bush. Coca was a central, if not a vital element of the very life, tradition, culture, religion and economy of dozens of indigenous peoples that lived throughout the Andean region. The main reason for that lack of focus was due to the fact that coca was one of the plants that had been strictly regulated, and at times systematically prohibited. As a result of that prohibition, over the last decade, the international community had addressed coca-related issues promoting a series of projects of ¡°supply reduction¡± as well as alternative development to eradicate the ¡°evil¡± plant from the face of the earth. All those efforts had proved to be unsuccessful in eliminating coca or substituting it with other licit crops. (...)