How the WTO can Promote Business and Human Rights unhcr.pdf
Coherence between trade and human rights policies is particularly important in conflict or weak governance zones where individuals desperately need the goods, jobs, and economic growth that trade and international investment can bring. The members of the WTO should work to ensure that the WTO plays a leading role in facilitating such coordination. The WTO should serve as both a hotbed of research and a source of ideas on best practices. As the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights-John Ruggie- noted,” the most egregious business‐related human rights abuses take place in conflict zones…. Yet there remains a lack of clarity among governments as to what …practical policies and tools have the greatest potential for preventing or mitigating corporate‐related abuses in situations of conflict.”[i] If the WTO aims to enhance human welfare, the GATT/WTO and other UN agencies must be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
WTO member states and the WTO Secretariat should:
[i] UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, “ Business and Human Rights in Conflict‐affected Regions: The Roles of States, 2009, http://188.8.131.52/Ruggie-conflict-project-note-Oct-2009.pdf
The Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations to which the great majority of countries are signatories, states that all citizens have the right to a secure means for their livelihood. This includes the basic means for earning a living, a place to live and a degree of public health, which meet satisfactory standards.
Yet there are so many poor countries where this claim is not fulfilled that it makes one think that in fact the UN can quiertly go to hell without anybody (except for a few politicians and government officials) being significantly affected! If ethical behavour amongst the nations (and including the Carnige Council teachers) is indeed the right and necessary way for progress to be made, then these august bodies have a strange way of showing it, for in practice, any really good results seem to be very slow in shining forth.
The elimination of poverty should be the first objective because after this matter is achieved there will be a practical chance for better changes in many of the other desirable matters of good government in communal and social life. Yet the poor get little help and even on this website they are not given much serious attention. For all the fine words and resolutions given here about improving business and trade, the most significant aspect, namely poverty elimination is ignored. What is the good of having better means for industry to do business if its most important customers, the citizens within the country do not get a share in the benefits?
Poverty is due to one thing alone, lack of income to families. The reason for this is equally obvious, no work. And the opportunity for work is being limited by those who control the right of access to land and to the amount of rent being paid when this right is granted. For satisfactory trade and industry within a country, the produce must be shared not exported. That comes only after there is a surplus. So it is unreasonable for this forum to try to discuss how to improve international trade relationships before the home business is properly in order.
The WTO enforcement mechanism, with its teeth, provides a great enforcement opportunity. As long as litigation is tied to actual trade treaty provisions, I believe human rights and labor issues can be addressed. This development is only unfolding, this is only the start...
As regards conflict zones, however, the WTO traditionally has stayed away from trade disputes with a security nuance. This is a bit they wouldn't dare touch... they wouldn't dare to go there...