Tag Archive for: Multinational Companies

On March 3 and 4, we participated in the workshop on Final Beneficiaries of Companies in the extractive and energy sector of Argentina, held in the City of Buenos Aires. The event was organized by Opening Extractives (a program co-implemented by EITI and Open Ownership) and the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA).

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”.

The workshop had among its objectives to raise awareness about the importance of public information of the final beneficiaries, and at the same time, provide resources and materials to increase research, projects and analysis within this field.

In this sense, the training was divided into three modules: first, content and information on final beneficiaries was presented, from the theoretical to the legal and also practical, both nationally and internationally. Those who spoke in this first module were: Andrés Knobel from the Tax Justice Network; María Eugenia Marano, specialist in corporate law; Pamela Morales, Undersecretary of Mining Development of the Government of the Nation; Gonzalo Fernández of the Ministry of Mining Development of the Nation; and Lucía Cirimello from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Secondly, civil society organizations had the opportunity to present their projects related to the theme. In this way, Edgardo Livitnoff (Red Ruido Coordinator) presented progress on the report “Lithium and transparency in Argentina” that we prepared together. For her part, Eugenia Rodríguez (Centro de Economía Política Argentina) shared details about the work of her organization: “The rich of Argentina”.

Finally, the third module consisted of a practical workshop given by Mariel Fitz Patricks, in which tools and resources were provided for approaching final beneficiaries. The journalist helped us, mainly, to access information and how, in this way, to enrich work carried out and to carry out on the subject.
This instance was very fruitful, not only in terms of knowledge and learning, but also in terms of the possibility of meeting peers from other civil society organizations, with whom one could work together in the near future.



More information:



Maitén de los Milagros Fuma


Maria Victoria Sibilla, ninasibilla@fundeps.org

From October 25 to 29, the seventh session of the Intergovernmental Working Group was held in Geneva. Delegations from UN member states, movements and civil society organizations participated in the session, which discussed the Third Revised Draft of the binding Treaty on Human Rights and transnational corporations.

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”.

The Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) was created by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014 to develop a legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations with respect to human rights. From October 25 to 29, the seventh session of the IGWG was held in Geneva, which discussed the Third Revised Draft of the binding treaty on Human Rights and companies published on August 17, 2021. Not only representatives of the States participated in the session. members, but also civil society organizations and social movements.

The presidency of the IGWG, currently led by Ecuador, opened the seventh session stating that the negotiations should be “led by the States,” which raised concerns about how the contributions of civil society will be included, especially in a context where the that there is a continuous and broad participation of civil society organizations, trade unions, social movements and communities affected by the activities of transnational companies, and as this initiative is one of the most supported processes in the history of the IGWG from the ONU.

On the other hand, this year marked the 10th anniversary of the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”, one of the most important initiatives at a global level in the protection of human rights in business activity and which constitutes a frame of reference in which complementary duties and responsibilities are explained and distributed between States and Companies. However, its application is voluntary. This anniversary will be the main theme of the United Nations Global Forum on Business and Human Rights that will take place from November 29 to December 1, and will offer the opportunity to evaluate the next achievements made to date, identifying gaps and challenges. , and to inspire renewed momentum for greater and better global enforcement by States and businesses in the next decade.

Más información:


Julieta Boretti


Gonzalo Roza, gon.roza@fundeps.org

During the week of October 15 to 19, the sessions of the Intergovernmental Working Group of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations took place. This group meets for the fourth time, and the discussions around a draft for the adoption of a binding treaty that seeks to regulate the activity of transnational corporations and their effects on human rights.

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”

A draft text for the ‘Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights’ was finally submitted in mid July. This document was launched in Geneva, within the framework of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Business and Human Rights, which indicated that a binding treaty on this matter should be developed. The sessions in October, took as a starting point for the debate, that ‘Zero Draft’.

The immediate antecedent of this draft was the document known as “Elements of the Treaty” that circulated at the end of 2017 and was discussed at the third session of the Intergovernmental Group in October of that same year. Subsequently, these ‘Elements’ were submitted for public consultation and comments were received until February 2018. Once the process was closed, the construction of a text for the 4th session was left.

About the ‘Zero Draft’

At first glance, the essential difference between both documents (the treaty and the elements), is the disappearance of the term ‘other companies’ when it refers to the subjects susceptible of judicial responsibility. The debate over the inclusion of other companies besides those of a transnational nature was strongly opposed. This, since it was considered that this treaty should only focus on those companies that have activities in two or more national jurisdictions because those that only acted in one State, were subject to national regulatory regimes. However, it should be noted that Article 4 of the draft defines ‘transnational business activities’ as any productive or commercial activity that takes place in two or more national jurisdictions. This reference could also be interpreted for those business activities carried out in a single State but that could be transnationalized due to their inclusion in a value chain.

Likewise, the preamble of the document does not include in its entirety what had been proposed in the draft elements of the treaty. The document published at the end of last year mentioned, among other things, the importance of referencing the Guiding Principles, the rules on the responsibility of transnational corporations and the pressing situation regarding the negative impacts of business activity on human rights. The draft treaty, in its preamble, fails to recognize all the elements that frame the process of creating this binding instrument.

In a second instance, it is important to mention that the draft text highlights the responsibility of the State as the first and only protector of Fundamental Rights in the face of corporate actions, although it ignores the possible damage caused to the commercial activity of nations. In this sense, those commercial activities that are supported by the States (generally public private investments) do not have a reception in this treaty.

The draft also surprises because of the relevance given to the remediation of damages and the rights of the victims, given the urgent need to prevent companies from violating human rights. This disparity between the remedy and prevention was noted by civil society in the ‘Elements’ document, and criticized as it is necessary that the damages caused by business activity be prevented in the same way as the provision of compensation to the victims.

Despite the strong focus on the ‘effective remedy’, the draft adopts an article on prevention; in which it is important to mention the obligation to establish legislation that obliges companies to take due diligence actions. Including environmental and human rights assessments to analyze their activities and take the necessary actions to prevent damage.

Now, it is clear that the draft proposes a binding component for the States, in the sense that it forces them to adopt legislation that ensures respect for Human Rights against business activity. However, the text does not evidence the responsibility of the companies and this is because the treaty will not make them obligated subjects but through the laws that the States will implement. In this regard, the possibility of creating a ‘tribunal’ or another similar institution that has the capacity to judge and penalize the actions of transnational companies disappears.

The draft of the treaty did not include the chapter on ‘Obligations of companies’ that was found in the ‘Elements’; nor were the obligations of international organizations included.

An important element that appears in the draft is the ‘International Fund for Victims’, whose objective is to collaborate with the effective remediation to the damages caused by the business activity.

About the 4th session

After the 4th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group, the polarization of opinions between the countries of the ‘north’ and the global ‘south’ has become evident. The countries belonging to the BRICS block, together with most of the African continents and Latin American; have shown a positive response to the initiative of a legally binding instrument. However, representatives of the European Union, the United States of America, Japan, Australia and Canada, in addition to not having been present at the negotiations, have made clear their refusal to endorse the creation of the aforementioned treaty.

This polarization has relevant effects on the effective force that an instrument of these characteristics can have. Since most of the transnational corporations that would be forced by this text, stay in the States that today pronounce themselves in a manner opposite to the treaty, the protection of human rights against the activity of transnational corporations would not be completely insured .

There are still no certainties about how the process will continue after this fourth session and it is also not clear how civil society will be included in it. According to the ‘Global Campaign to Stop Corporate Impunity’, the following are the points recommended to the Intergovernmental Group, to give continuity to the negotiations:

  1. The future treaty should be aimed at Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and other companies with transnational activities, in accordance with the mandate given to the Intergovernmental Working Group in resolution 26/9.
  2. The future treaty must contain direct obligations for NCDs. It must also establish the joint and several liability of the parent companies with the entities throughout its global production chain (subsidiaries, subcontractors, suppliers, etc.).
  3. The future treaty should provide for an international enforcement mechanism with effective and binding enforcement powers. In this regard, the Global Campaign proposes the creation of an International Court to prosecute TNCs that commit human rights violations and an International Monitoring Center for TNCs.
  4. The future treaty must clearly establish the primacy of human rights obligations over trade or investment agreements.
  5. The future treaty should include concrete measures against the influence of TNCs in the process of formulating public policies at the international and national levels.
  6. The effective participation of civil society in all stages of negotiations on the draft treaty and the safeguarding of the process of influence of TNCs and their representatives.


Agustina Palencia


More Information:

We present comments on the draft treaty on business and human rights.

Advancing towards a binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.

Zero Draft Binding Treaty

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”


Like every year, during the month of November, the United Nations Forum on Human Rights and Business is held in Geneva. Whenever this event takes place, a particular theme is designated that will be the protagonist. This year, this theme has to do with: ‘access to repair mechanisms’.

The umbrella that protects this high-level meeting is subject to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These Principles constitute the current tool to regulate the actions of national and transnational companies regarding human rights. They were born with the academic John Ruggie and were adopted by the United Nations in 2011, by the Human Rights Council, through resolution 17/4. The objectives of the Board at that time were: identify and clarify corporate responsibility standards; and clarify the role of states. To this end, the established guidelines were divided into three fundamental pillars: the duty of the State to protect human rights, the responsibility of companies to respect human rights and access to redress mechanisms.

The mandate of these guiding principles is to “reduce as much as possible the negative impacts of business on human rights in a short period of time“. They also have general characteristics: (a) they cover all States. (b) they cover all companies, of all sizes, in all sectors and in all countries. (c) identify different but complementary responsibilities between States and companies. (d) they do not create new legal obligations, they elaborate based on existing obligations and best practices for States and companies. (e) are based on the idea that it can not be compensated: positive impacts do not compensate for negative impacts on human rights elsewhere. (f) they are a mixture of regulatory and voluntary approaches.

The context that gave birth to these principles is not different from that of today. The actions of the companies (even after the adoption of the principles) and their consequences, continue to show that national and international regulatory frameworks have not met the objective of protecting human rights. During 2016 we have witnessed the largest massacre of human rights defenders. Around the world, vulnerable communities have been violated their rights (housing, health, life, a healthy environment, among others) because of the actions of companies and corporations.

This situation has shown that the guiding principles have not yet managed to become an effective preventive framework regarding human rights violations due to corporate actions. In this sense, it is understandable why in the session of the Forum this year 2017 has focused on access to reparation. This third pillar refers to the existence of effective remedies for victims of human rights violations. At the state level, it is expected that States take appropriate measures to investigate, punish and repair. On the part of the corporations, the principles encourage the existence of early warnings that identify negative impacts and allow resolving complaints before the situation escalates to more damaging scenarios.

Since DD.HH. are currently at the mercy of business activity, the role of the States becomes fundamental. Specifically in regard to the strengthening of regulatory frameworks at the domestic level. For this, an essential part of the obligations of the States has to do with: ensuring access to judicial and non-judicial mechanisms; and reduce the obstacles to access to justice. In this regard, it is necessary to emphasize that non-judicial mechanisms play a very important complementary role. Some of them include: State mechanisms, national human rights institutions, ombudsmen, complaints offices, National Contact Points (OECD), among others.

The application of the guiding principles by the States has been given through the form of National Plans of Action. It is expected that these plans will be constituted as instruments that:

– Promote greater coordination among government agencies with direct involvement in business issues and human rights.

– Promote the protection of human rights through due diligence in companies.

– Identify national priorities regarding this topic and translate them into concrete public policies

– Ensure monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the plan, in a continuous manner.

– Are based on a platform of continuous dialogue with all the actors involved (government, companies and civil society)

– Possess a flexible format for cooperation, coordination and international exchange of good practices and lessons learned.

– Strengthen regulations at the domestic level.

The result of the development of these plans around the world leaves much to be desired. There are still many States that have not embarked on this process and those that have done so have not succeeded in having their plans promote a framework strong enough to respect, protect and / or remedy.

The situation of widespread vulnerability to this problem has raised doubts about the effectiveness of the guiding principles, and a process to create a legally binding instrument has been developed at the same time. During the Forum, it is expected to debate about the roles that the principles and the binding treaty would occupy. Although opinions are divided (between those who support one initiative or another) it is necessary to clarify that the principles and the treaty are complementary. A binding instrument is a step forward with respect to the guidelines. To achieve this progress it is necessary to protect the autonomy of the process of construction of the treaty since, in short, this initiative would give greater impetus to the guiding principles, and would give greater and better content to the action plans.

More information

– Advancing towards a binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights

– Discussions in Argentina regarding a business treaty and human rights

– We participate in the second regional consultation of ECLAC on human rights and companies


 Agustina Palencia, agustinapalencia@fundeps.org


Juan Carballo, juanmcarballo@fundeps.org

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”


The idea of ​​moving forward in an international instrument that responds to the regulatory challenges generated by the actions of international companies is taking on a new impetus in 2013, based on the initiative of a group of countries from Latin America, Asia and Africa. From the identification of numerous cases of human rights violations by transnational corporations, it was decided to create a space that would allow the debate on the creation of a legally binding instrument. The statement made at that time highlighted that:

The growing number of cases of human rights abuses and violations committed by transnational corporations remind us of the need to move towards a legally binding framework to regulate the work of transnational corporations and to provide adequate protection, justice and reparations to victims of transnational corporations. abuses against human rights, related to the activities of certain transnational corporations and other enterprises.

So far, the legal framework regulating the activities of international companies has been summarized in non-binding instruments and mechanisms: among them the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines and the UN Working Group on companies and human rights. Such instruments have limited powers to monitor companies’ compliance with the Principles and only provide a partial response to urgent issues related to human rights abuses by transnational corporations. These principles and mechanisms do not adequately respond to the regulatory challenges of actors such as international companies. In addition, they fail to secure access to justice in the face of actions by transnational corporations that have an impact on human rights or to ensure adequate reparations for victims.
Resolution 26/9, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 26 June 2014, created the Working Group mandated “to develop a legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other enterprises in international human rights law“.
An international legally binding instrument, adopted within the United Nations system, would make clear the obligations of transnational corporations, both in the field of human rights and in the face of States. It would also allow for fair reparations for victims in cases where it is clearly impossible to effectively prosecute companies with domestic legislation.

Meetings were held in the years following the formation of the intergovernmental group (2015 and 2016) to further advance the treaty negotiations. In 2017, the third session of the group was held, seeking to outline a possible textof the legally binding instrument.

During the course of the first two sessions both civil society organizations and participating States stressed that:

– The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights did not address the core of the debate on maximum protection of human rights and access to justice and redress.

– Any binding instrument should clearly establish the obligation of transnational corporations to respect environmental, health and labor standards and international humanitarian law.

– The gender perspective was requested to be incorporated into the instrument, as human rights violations committed by transnational corporations could accentuate previous inequalities and have negative gender consequences.

– It was noted that the working group process was related to the implementation of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

– International financial institutions could also be included in the scope of the instrument, which would be consistent with international law.

– The size of the companies to which the treaty should apply was discussed, taking into account the activities of all companies, but focusing on transnational corporations.

– NGOs agreed to recognize the principle of human rights hierarchy in other areas of international law, in particular the rules on trade and investment protection.

For the 2017 session civil society has sought to achieve greater commitment on the road to the creation of the treaty. Numerous organizations and social movements are driving the generation of this instrument to finally achieve better levels of accountability on the part of transnational corporations. Groups such as Stop Corporate Impunity and Treaty Movement have been involved in trying to incorporate the vision of civil society organizations into the text of the treaty. In addition, the G77 + China Group, in its Ministerial Declaration of 2017, emphasized the importance and acceptance of a binding treaty; and urged Member States to participate in the third session to be held in Geneva.

In contrast, the International Business Community has emphasized that the elements to be included in the treaty proposed by the Intergovernmental Group represent a ‘setback on the commitments assumed from the Guiding Principles’. In this regard, it was emphasized that the almost exclusive approach in transnational corporations does not take into account the serious human rights violations caused by the actions of national companies. Likewise, it stresses that the creation of a legally binding instrument removes the power of States, and even underestimates them, when enforcing the current regulations. In addition, the need to strengthen state institutions is emphasized rather than embarking on the creation of such an instrument.

Since the creation of the Intergovernmental Working Group, the debate has focused on the need to define the approach of the treaty. Civil society has stressed the urgent need to involve transnational corporations, while the corporate community and the states of the European Union plus the United States have rejected this perspective.

The role of Argentina in the face of the discussion

Argentina’s position on this issue has not been entirely clear. During the management of Cristina Fernandez, the decision was to abstain in the vote to try to create the binding instrument. However, under the management of Mauricio Macri, there was no formalisation of a position. However, following a request for access to information to the Ministry of RREE and Worship, a response was received which showed that the Argentine Republic shares the growing interest of the international community in linking corporate responsibility with respect to human rights. In the same way, it maintains an active commitment with the initiatives aimed at raising the standards in this matter.

In this sense, it should be mentioned that it seems that Argentina is positively inclined towards this initiative. It is also worth noting that in the middle of this year a first version of a National Action Plan for the application of the Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business was presented.

During the remaining days of the third session, the debate will continue on the generation of a binding instrument and we hope that the result will be a substantive advance regarding the obligations of companies to respect and guarantee human rights. Likewise, we hope that Argentina will assume a position of support for this initiative and that in that process it will allow the participation of civil society organizations and in particular of communities that have been impacted by the actions of transnational corporations.


Agustina Palencia, agustinapalencia@fundeps.org 


Juan Carballo, juanmcarballo@fundeps.org

The Second Regional Consultation for Latin America and the Caribbean on the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights was held during the week of January 17-19 in the city of Santiago de Chile. The meeting was attended by governments, businessmen and civil society organizations.

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”

During the year 2016, the first consultation was held and it was concluded that it was necessary to make progress in a regional report on human rights and business. In 2017, the second meeting was convened in order to continue the effort to implement the Guiding Principles, serving as a platform for dialogue among various actors, to illustrate the content of an agenda that guides the policies related to the subject matter ( Both in the public and private spheres) towards the progressive enjoyment of human rights in the context of business operations.

The Guiding Principles are based on the recognition of: (a) Current obligations of States to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms; (B) The role of companies as specialized bodies of society which perform specialized functions and which must comply with all applicable laws and respect human rights; C) The need for rights and obligations to be accompanied by adequate and effective remedies in case of non-compliance. These principles apply to all States and to all enterprises, whether transnational or otherwise, irrespective of their size, sector, location, owners and structure.

The expected results of this consultation were related to:

  • Recognize international developments in business and human rights;
  • Recognize outstanding challenges and regional reality in the development and implementation of national action plans and public policies on business and human rights;
  • Sharing experiences of different stakeholders on their relationship with the Guiding Principles and national action plans;
  • Identify opportunities to improve collaboration between countries and regions, and to continue the peer learning mechanism;
  • Evaluate progress on the regional agenda on business and human rights.

It should be noted that prior to the meeting, FUNDEPS and other civil society organizations signed a letter to encourage greater participation by civil society in this consultation. As a result of this request, a specific panel was incorporated for the organizations at the same time as the interventions of this sector were prioritized over the three days.

The consultation was attended by American governments (Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and the United States), representatives of civil society organizations and representatives of companies that are working on the implementation of the guiding principles. Each of the participating governments showed progress in the design and implementation of a national plan that addresses the application of the principles. For their part, representatives of civil society had the opportunity to express their concerns and perceptions about the work that governments and companies have been doing on this issue.

In the same way as in the case of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), FUNDEPS considers it of great importance to promote such initiatives that seek to provide greater transparency and accountability in the Private sector, but without neglecting the responsibility of national governments. Particularly in Argentina, and taking into account the current scenario of foreign investment, characterized by an increasing role of private sector investments (the case of investments of Chinese companies or the growing portfolio of projects of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, for example ) Or through Public-Private Associations, we believe that it is vital that both the national government and those of a local nature do not lose sight of these guiding principles in order to guarantee respect for human rights within the framework of business activities. We also hope that the process of designing a national human rights and business plan will have a space for civil society input.

More information


Agustina Palencia – agustinapalencia@fundeps.org

On 15-19 November, 2016, over 100 social movements, civil society organizations and advocates will come together across more than 40 countries to confront global systems that perpetuate inequality, impoverishment and dispossession, explore alternatives that ensure collective well-being and build a global movement to make human rights and social justice a reality for all.

“Below, we offer a google translate version of the original article in Spanish. This translation may not be accurate but serves as a general presentation of the article. For more accurate information, please switch to the Spanish version of the website. In addition, feel free to directly contact in English the person mentioned at the bottom of this article with regards to this topic”

Human rights provide a vital source of political, moral and legal legitimacy for the pursuit of justice, self-determination and shared well-being. This framework unites ESCR-Net members in over 75 countries, where they work together to ensure accountability of governments and private actors, articulate alternative development models, promote substantive equality for women, advocate for rights Relating to land and natural resources, to strengthen litigation and implementation guided by affected communities, as well as to facilitate access and strategic use of information to promote ESCR.

Throughout this week, the different working groups of the network will discuss the challenges that the global context presents for the guarantee of ESCR. The growing impoverishment of citizenship, corporate capture of the state, growing inequality, degradation of ecosystems and repression of human rights activists; Are the faces of a system that still has a debt to human rights. The program gives an account of the variety of actions carried out by the network in the many countries in which it works.

On Tuesday, 15 November, the ESCR-Net opened its Global Strategy Meeting with more than 150 participants from more than 40 countries. The day highlighted the great responsibility of those who make up the ESCR-Net, in light of the common global conditions that pose a serious threat to human dignity and the potential of collective action throughout the world. Prior to defining the overall objectives of the Network for the next five years, participants assessed the collective work of the three previous ones through brief reports from the Corporate Accountability, Economic Policy, Monitoring, Strategic Litigation, and Women and ESCR, as well as the Solidarity System.

From FUNDEPS we participate in this meeting, seeking to coordinate our actions and strategies with those of the global network, aware that only a coordinated and collective effort will be able to face the great challenges of human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights.

More information

Website of the ESCR-Net Global Strategy Meeting

– Program of the ESCR-Net Global Strategy Meeting

Participants of the ESCR-Net Global Strategy Meeting


Agustina Palencia – agustinapalencia@fundeps.org

Carolina Tamagnini – carotamagnini@fundeps.org

Agustina Mozzoni – agustinamozzoni@fundeps.org

Despite the universitality of human rights, a large number of States continue interpreting their obligations as applicable only within their own territory.  This has led to an important void in the protection of these rights, for which reason a series of principles has been developed that intend to clarify what States’ extraterritorial obligations are in terms of economic, social and cultural rights.

“Extraterritorial obligations” (ETO) are those obligations that States have as a consequence of their acts or omissions, that impact on the enjoyment of human rights outside of their own territorial limits.  Although they have acquired greater relevance as a consequence of the effects of globalization, States still show a strong tendency to limit their obligations to their own territory.  This has led to important voids in the protection of human rights, particularly in the case of transnational businesses and intergovernmental organizations, such as the International Financial Institutions (IFIs).

Consequentially, since 2011, and thanks to the effort of international experts in the underlying principles of the ETO, there exists a set of principles known as Maastricht’s Principles about States’ Extraterritorial Obligations in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  At present, these principles constitute an expert international opinion, which clarify States’ extraterritorial obligations based on current international rights.

Extraterritorial Obligations (ETOs) and their relationship with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and transnational businesses

In this context, it so happens that States frequently turn to IFIs with the aim of requesting financing for their projects, many of which are liable to cause violations to human rights, not only in the territory of the State that requested the financing but also outside of it.  However, it is important to clarify that international rights do no permit the States to ignore – nor transgress – their respective human rights obligations, through the use of the IFIs as agents that do not comply with, in their practices, the own obligations of the States.  In this sense, Maastricht’s principle number 15 directly refers to States’ obligations as members of international organizations, establishing that:

“A State that transfers competencies or participates in an international organization must adopt all reasonable measures to guarantee that the organization acts according to international obligations on the subject of  human rights of said State.” (Maastricht’s Principles, point 15)

That is to say, that States can not evade their obligations protecting themselves with the justification that actions are developed by the IFIs.  On the contrary, as members of said organizations, they must take the measures that are within their reach so that the activities of said organizations are consistent with internationally recognized human rights.

A similar analysis is applicable in the case of transnational businesses originating from a State, but whose activities can have effect on the human rights of the population where they operate.  In this case, point 24 of Maastricht’s Principles highlights the States’ obligation of protection or regulation, establishing that:

“All the States must adopt the measures to assure that non-governmental actors that are in positions to regulate […] including individuals and private organizations, transnational businesses and other commercial businesses, do not override or undermine the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.” (Maastricht’s Principles, point 24)

This implies that a State can not wash their hands of  the actions and obligations of their transnational businesses that operate outside of their own territory.  To the contrary, they must take charge of regulating and supervising their activities,  above all those that are related to economic, social and cultural rights (DESC).  In this way, Maastricht’s Principles establish that the States must try through their means, to achieve the highest grade of satisfaction possible from the DESC; those that encompass basic questions of human dignity such as food, health, housing, work, education and access to water, among others.  States contribute to the guarantee of these rights through their acts or omissions, their decisions that support the governing bodies of the IFIs, and in the regulation and supervision of the actions of their transnational businesses.

In this context, civil society must advocate for the recognition of and compliance with Maastricht’s Principles, since without the observance of extraterritorial obligations, human rights cannot assume their role as legal basis for the regulation of globalization, nor assure the universal protection of all people and groups.  Therefore, one of the current challenges consists of finding the way to tackle the immunity that the IFIs claim and the consequent lack of accountability.

These types of advances in terms of international rights, and in relation to the protection of human rights, is relevant within the context of the work of FUNDEPS.  Both from the global view point when considering, for example, the obligations of the States that make up the IFIs; as from the local point of view, taking into account violations to human rights in the local sphere, that can be caused by the actions of transnational businesses or projects financed by the IFIs.

More information:

Web page of the ETO Consortium

Maastricht’s Principles about States’ Extraterritorial Obligations in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator of the Area of Global Governability


Yamile Najle – Co-coordinator of the Area of Human Rights


Translated By: Rebecca Rhoads