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Progress in the field of business and human rights in 2020 was mixed. Important measures were initiated, and some decided, by legislative, judicial, administrative and international bodies. A process to draft an EU directive on mandatory human rights due diligence began, even as a similar initiative fell short in Switzerland. Canada’s Supreme Court rendered a landmark ruling on common law damages suits against companies for overseas human rights violations, while the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument on a similar issue. New regulations on extractive industries’ transparency and pension fund investments were issued by the U.S. SEC and Department of Labor, but could still be overturned. Although negotiations on a UN treaty on business and human rights made little progress, a treaty on environmental rights in Latin America and the Caribbean gathered enough State support to come into force in 2021.

The following are among the year’s more important developments globally in business and human rights:

Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence: EU: After the EU Justice Minister announced that the EU hoped to approve a directive on mandatory human rights due diligence for companies in 2021, and European Parliament Committees recommended a proposed rule for companies based in or doing business in Europe, the European Commission opened a proceeding for public comment. Stay tuned for results in second semester 2021.

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