Second session (24-28 October 2016)
Item 4: panel on “primary obligations of States, including extraterritorial obligations related to TNCs and other business enterprises with respect to human rights”. 



Patrizia Scannella, WILPF Human Rights programme director.

Thank you Madam Chair,

As noted by Ms. Ana María Suárez Francos, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is one of the human rights bodies that has elaborated the scope and implications of states’ extraterritorial human rights obligations. It has, for example, affirmed that States parties’ obligations requiring them “to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise, also extend to acts of national corporations operating extraterritorially.”[1]

As we indicated yesterday, the adverse human rights impacts of corporate activities are not gender neutral. For example, women experience direct and indirect consequences of mining activities in different, and often more prominent, ways than men.

In the case of artisanal mining, women generally play a much larger – but often invisible – role than in the large-scale mining sector. Artisanal mining sites, such as the ones covered in WILPF’s research on the DRC, [2] are at the bottom of the supply chain. The corporations producing the final goods contribute to the precarious living and working conditions in these sites, since they are responsible for setting the prices of mined products.

Women are among the most impacted by the insalubrious and precarious conditions in those sites. They are also among the most impacted by the militarisation of the sites stemming from the use of private and security forces.

Violations against women identified in our research include gender discrimination, slavery-like conditions, deterioration of reproductive health (e.g. menstrual disruption, miscarriages, vaginal yeast infections), violence, forced displacement, sexual exploitation in (and because of) artisanal mines, exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Bonita Meyersfeld, an expert who was a working group panelist last year, has recommended that corporations “should determine whether their activities create, encourage, reinforce or exacerbate existing gender-based inequalities” of their proposed corporate activity. [3] She also recommended that they be required to ensure that their supply chains are subject to strict gender considerations.[4] These are measures that should be reflected in a treaty.

We would like to ask: how can extraterritorial obligations of states contribute to gender impact assessments with regard to the impact of companies’ activities outside their home state and throughout their supply chains?

[1] CEDAW/C/GC/28

[2] Life at the bottom of the chain: Women in artisanal mines in the DRC, August 2016

[3] Business, human rights and gender: a legal approach to external and internal considerations by Bonita Meyersfeld, Director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies and Associate Professor of law at the School of Law, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

[4] Ditto