UN expert for mainstreaming human rights into trade regime | Greenwatch Dhaka | The leading online daily of Bangladesh

UN expert for mainstreaming human rights into trade regime


Dhaka – The United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, on Tuesday called on States and Parliaments to ensure that all future trade agreements stipulate the primacy of human rights, UNB news agency reported.Existing treaties should be revised to ensure that they do not conflict with the duty of States to fulfill binding human rights treaties and meet environmental and health goals, according to a message received here from Geneva.
“Investors and transnational enterprises have invented new rules to suit their needs, rules that impinge on the regulatory space of States and disenfranchise the public,” de Zayas warned during the presentation of his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council.
“In case of conflict, priority must be given to advancing the public interest rather than continuing the current emphasis on profit expectations of investors and transnational corporations.
“It is high time to mainstream human rights into all trade agreements and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and regulations, so that trade representatives and dispute-settlers know that trade is neither a “stand alone” regime not an end in itself,” he observed.
The report introduces the concept of R2A – responsibility to act in the public interest. The “R2A” reaffirms the ontology of governance and goes well beyond the better known “R2P”, Responsibility to Protect. “Governments, Parliaments and Courts must deliver on R2A and not compromise their constitutionally defined roles.”
The report illustrates how the investor-state-dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), the recently proposed Investment Court System (ICS), and the WTO dispute settlement mechanism suffer from systemic business-bias and often fail to consider the human rights impacts in their awards and decisions.
The expert noted that a wide range of basic rights have been negatively impacted by trade agreements and arbitration awards; among them: the right to self-determination and sovereignty over natural wealth and resources (especially of indigenous populations), the right to life and health, e.g. when access to generic medicines is impeded, the right to work, the right to humane labour conditions, the right to access information – including on commercial treaties, the right to peaceful assembly and association, and the right to public participation.
A systematic follow up by the Human Rights Council to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of UN working groups, rapporteurs and independent experts is necessary.


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