This working paper gives an overview of the debate from the early efforts to formulate the UN Code of Conduct to the current initiative for a binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights. It particularly focuses on the responses by TNCs and their leading interest groups to the various UN initiatives, specifies the key actors and their objectives, and describes how many of their demands were ultimately reflected in governmental positions and UN decisions. In this context it also highlights features of the interplay between business demands and the evolution of the regulatory debates at the UN. This provides an indication of the degree of influence that corporate actors exert and their ability – in cooperation with some powerful UN member
states – to prevent international binding rules for TNCs at the UN and, instead, promote legally non-binding, ‘voluntary’ approaches such as CSR and multi-stakeholder initiatives. The working paper ends with remarks on what could be done to counteract and reverse corporate influence on the UN human rights agenda. This constitutes an indispensable prerequisite for progress towards effective legally binding instruments on business and human rights that
can produce real improvements in the lives of affected individuals and communities.
(cartoon by Jon Sack/Corporate Rule)