CSOs celebrate HR resolution of UNHRC, urges the PH government to follow through
Human rights (HR) groups and other organizations are celebrating as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva voted on a resolution to initiate the process to create an international legally binding instrument that will hold transnational corporations (TNCs) accountable to corporate human rights abuses on June 26.
Rene Pamplona and Fr. Joy Pelino both representatives of the Social Action Center of Marbel Diocese a member organization of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) attended the UNHRC meeting in Geneva as representatives of the Philippines.
In a two minute presentation, Pamplona presented to the UNHRC the case of Glencore/Xstrata – a Swiss Transnational Corporation – and its alleged human rights abuses to the people of Bla’an in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Presently, Glencore is being accused of committing human rights abuses to four (4) – Peru, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia – other countries aside from the Philippines.
47 member countries of the United Nations Human Rights Council convened to vote on the initiation of the controversial international binding treaty highly opposed by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom and Japan.
The result came down to a YES after 20 voted in favour, 14 against and 13 abstentions.
“This is really a historic moment for all of us,” said Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina national coordinator.
“The approval of an initiation of an international instrument to hold TNCs accountable to their HR abuses is beneficial to every worker and victims of corporate abuses all around the globe.” He added.
In the Philippines, the lobbying team for the passage of the initiation of the legally binding treaty is the Tampakan Forum to which ATM and SAC Marbel are members.
ATM, Kalikasan at Tao Muna Hindi Mina and other environmental and human rights organizations held a rally in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs office last June 24 in solidarity with the global campaign Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity.
This was after reports came out claiming that the Philippine Mission in Geneva, Headed by Ambassador Cecilia Rebong, kept mum on the issue during the whole process of deliberation. In the final result, the Philippines was one of the countries that voted YES in the meeting.
“It was a long and hard journey to get the missions vote on a YES for the initiation of the binding treaty, however the bigger battle is just about to begin.” Said Rose Trajano, Secretary General of Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).
Trajano came with Pamplona and Pelino in Geneva and also helped in the lobbying to stop TNC impunity. PAHRA, the organization Trajano belongs is also a member of the Tampakan Forum.
Despite the victory, HR groups and other organizations involve in the global campaign remain wary as to where the initiative may lead to. In a statement, Pamplona urged the supporters of the binding treaty and the general public to be alert and not to get too complacent with the turn of events.
“There are still thousands of victims that are fighting for justice against the human rights abuses TNCs have done to them. Here in the Philippines alone, Glencore Xstrata and the members of Task force KITACO that are main suspects for the killings of Bla’an tribe members remain at large.
“Yes the initiative to build a binding treaty has begun, but we have to be vigilant and alert on what’s going to happen next, because as passionate as we are in concertizing justice when it comes to human rights abuses, those against it are probably as dedicated to block it just the same.” Pamplona said.
According to a press release by the global campaign Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity, “United Nations’ present Business and human rights regime, which relies on voluntary guidelines rather than legal obligations, is woefully inadequate to deal with ongoing corporate violations.”
“Voluntary Guidelines” refers to corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs that almost all TNCs and even some local companies do to fulfill social obligations.
“There is nothing wrong with CSRs,” Trajano clarified “but this should not be a reason why TNCs should have impunity on abuses they have committed.”
A passage of an international binding treaty championing corporate human rights and holding TNCs accountable to corporate human rights abuses has been seen by Human Rights groups as a revolutionary milestone in the realm of business and human rights.
To date, the global and local campaign for a legally binding instruments continue, this time to ensure that the initiative will follow through and for the Philippines’ “Yes” vote to be translated into a productive and constructive participation in the drafting of the International Binding Treaty.
“We are calling on the Philippine Government especially the Department of Foreign Affairs to actively participate in the drafting of the binding treaty in the UNHRC. May our country be a part of upholding corporate human rights that will benefit this generation and the next.” Garganera concluded.
Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of Executive Order 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and passage of the AMMB.
Tampakan Forum, a working group on the Tampakan mining issue composed of legal, social, economic, technical experts and organizations opposing mining in the country
For more information:
Rene Pamplona, Campaign and Advocacy Officer, SAC Marbel (0918) 380.99.23 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0917) 549.82.18 <email@example.com>
Check Zabala, ATM Media and Communications Officer, (0927) 623.50.66 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ATM Press Release
14 July 2014