GoJIL Vol. 9, No. 3 (2019)
Evaluating the Zero Draft on a UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights: What Does it Regulate and how Likely is its Adoption by States?
Infringements of human rights through the actions of transnational corporations are common in our globalizing world. While the international community has undertaken numerous attempts to hold private corporations responsible for their actions, only soft law instruments govern this area of public international law. Only recently, a first draft was released for a Legally Binding Instrument to Regulate, in International Human Rights Law, the Activities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, also known as the Zero Draft. This article argues that the Zero Draft, while based on contemporary international law, represents a positive first step in the treaty-making process, but it still needs specification and clarification in order to close the gap in human rights protection effectively. First outlining the need for a closure of the gap in human rights protection, this article then closely examines the content of the Zero Draft. To that end, an in-depth analysis of the core provisions of the Draft is offered, especially focusing on the rights of victims, the prevention of human rights infringements, and corporate liability. Furthermore, this article analyzes current State practice and the expectations of the international community towards a legally binding instrument on the topic of business and human rights. Significantly, this article also compares the Zero Draft to existing soft law and previous recommendations on how to close the gap in a binding manner. Finally, the article concludes that, by indirectly holding companies accountable without depriving States of their sovereign power over their companies, the Zero Draft has the potential to be implemented as a future Treaty on Business and Human Rights.
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