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November 28th, 2022
Rep. Grijalva Responds to Biden Administration’s Recommendation to Roll Back Human Rights Protections in Favor of Transnational Businesses

WASHINGTON – On Friday, November 18, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva sent a letter to the Biden administration criticizing their input to remove protections for Indigenous People, women and girls, those at risk of retaliation, or vulnerable or marginalization groups such a Black and LGBTQIA+ community members from human rights due diligence provisions at the 8th United Nation’s (UN) Human Rights Council’s open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (IGWG). This disgraceful action by the U.S. comes after years of declining to actively participate in IGWG meetings. In a previous letter, Rep. Grijalva urged the U.S. to participate in the 8th annual UN IGWG.

“​If President Biden and his administration are serious about addressing environmental injustice issues in our country, then they must espouse those same values abroad, and fight to ensure transnational corporations aren’t taking advantage of fenceline communities to further line their pockets.  It’s clear that the U.S. has favored the rights of transnational corporations over the rights of peoples across this world at risk of marginalization,” said Rep. Grijalva. “​After many years of U.S. disengagement at the international level, I’m disappointed that the Biden administration is seeking to weaken the working groups’ protections for fenceline communities and those facing abusive corporate activities. I urge ​the U.S. delegation to ​reverse course and return to the negotiating table with recommendations to provide clarity for business while moving ​move forward with protections that reflect the needs of fenceline communities.”

“This treaty must, first and foremost, serve Black and Indigenous fenceline communities, such as the predominantly Black historic community in Wallace, Louisiana, who are organizing themselves in an already heavily polluted area to stop development of Greenfield LLC’s grain terminal, which will only add to the dangerously toxic air that is seriously affecting the health and well-being of local residents,” the letter reads. “Corporate actors, like many of those harming Indigenous and Black communities in Cancer Alley and elsewhere in the country, have long operated with impunity for human rights violations, and countless communities around the world have been advocating for more than forty years to have their rights adequately protected by a UN treaty. It is a grave insult to these “fenceline communities” for the U.S. to recommend a two tier approach that strips out central protections from the main treaty, leaving an anemic core text alongside a set of separate optional protections for the most marginalized people.”

In the letter, Rep. Grijalva asked the Biden administration to justify their decision making:

Based on these observations, we request answers to the following questions:

  1. Why did the U.S. delegation recommend removing protections for Indigenous People, women and girls, those at risk of retaliation, or those who may be at heightened risks of vulnerability or marginalization?
  2. What is the justification in human rights terms for the recommendation to reduce the future LBI to a “core text”, with “optional protocols in which issue or industry specific areas could be negotiated separately and signed on to by state parties?”
  3. How does the Administration believe a LBI which codifies an uneven patchwork of national legislation into an international law provides regulatory simplicity and certainty to the business sector?
  4. How does the U.S. plan to implement the recommendations outlined by UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)?

The full letter can be found here.

Statements of Support

“There’s a lot the US Government can do to support fenceline communities like ours while negotiating in this important UN treaty making process. Watering down the text to weaken protections and exclude historically marginalized people is definitely not the right approach,” said Jo &  Joy Banner, The Descendants Project.

“Civil society and people affected by corporate human rights abuses are watching the Biden Administration closely to see if the U.S. is committed to taking action to advance human rights during this process. It was disappointing this year to see the U.S. advance positions that weaken the text of the draft treaty, and are out of step with its existing international legal obligations. The US should echo the demands of affected people and ignore the perspectives of corporate lobby groups,” said Dominic Renfrey, Center for Constitutional Rights.

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