UN Special Rapporteur’s Report to the General Assembly Comparing States’ Treatment Of Businesses and Associations

Published: September 16, 2015

In this report (A/70/266), Maina Kiai’s third to the United Nations General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association compares the enabling environments that States, multilateral organizations and other actors create for businesses and associations, and highlights instances where they are treated inequitably.

Although businesses and associations are distinct bodies that pursue different motives, they share similarities, most notably that they are both non-State actors and vehicles to unite people to pursue a particular goal, whether economic, political, social, cultural or otherwise.

Despite those similarities, the Special Rapporteur has found that States and others often impose more burdensome regulation upon associations, both in law and in practice, with businesses receiving more favourable treatment. The net result is that for businesses the enabling environment — defined broadly as action or inaction by States and other actors to promote a particular non-State sector — is typically much better than it is for associations.

To remedy this issue, the report argues for “sectoral equity” – a fair, transparent and impartial approach in which the regulation of each sector is grounded in domestic and international law, standards and norms, and where regulations are clearly set forth in law, with minimum discretion given to State officials.