States must ensure that businesses abide by human rights throughout their operations, including abroad
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted an authoritative reaffirmation of the extra-territorial obligation (ETO) to protect International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of corporations operating abroad. Reaffirming its Concluding Observations developed over the past several years, the Committee made clear that States Parties to the Covenant are legally obligated to regulate corporations domiciled, incorporated or headquartered within their territories, or those over which they otherwise exercise control, to ensure that they respect, protect and fulfill Covenant rights throughout their operations, including their operations abroad.
The Committee also made clear that States Parties are legally obligated to ensure access to justice, including accountability and remedies, in the event such corporations detrimentally impact Covenant rights abroad.
According to Bret Thiele, Co-Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “this is a welcomed reaffirmation of what civil society has brought to the Committee’s attention over the past several years.” He stated that such a positive result demonstrates the efficacy of a concerted civil society push, “the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other members of the ETO Consortium, including in particular FIAN International and several of its national sections, worked with several affected communities around the world to ensure that States are held accountable when their respective corporations impact Covenant rights abroad.”
“With this new General Comment, we hope that monitoring of and accountability for corporate actions abroad are systematically applied throughout all periodic reporting and complaints under the Covenant” Thiele added.
The General Comment is available HERE.
The relevant Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Press Statement is available HERE
A comprehensive collection of UN pronouncements on ETOs is available HERE.