The Human Rights Council voted last month to extend the mandate for the Special Representative on Human Rights and Business, John Ruggie, a Harvard Professor at the Kennedy School of Government, to examine the relationship between Human Rights and Corporate Activity and to propose solutions on ways to better guarantee the State Duty to Protect, the Corporate Responsibility to Respect and Effective Access to Remedies for victims of violations perpetrated by corporations.
The UN Resolution makes eight specific requests to Ruggie, including:
- To provide concrete and practical recommendations on the State Duty to protect;
- To elaborate the scope and provide guidance to business on the responsibility to respect;
- To make recommendations at all levels on effective remedies;
- To integrate gender issues and vulnerable groups (particularly children) in his work;
- To exchange and promote best practice in conjunction with the UN Global Compact;
- To work closely with the UN and other relevant international bodies;
- To promote the framework and continue to consult;
- To report annually to the UN
The mandate renewal reflects the ongoing commitment from the UN's highest agencies and political leadership that the issue of human rights in the corporate world is still very much a top priority for the global institution, for States, and for the future of global governance talks relative to corporate activity. It also reflects a renewed belief that long-stagnant discussions between the corporate sector, States and civil society groups on the obligations of corporations to respect human rights, can and will advance.
Ruggie came into the debate several years earlier when previous negotiations between these sectors had all but collapsed, despite the issuance of the UN Human Rights Norms for Transnational Corporations and other business practice, advancement towards an effective human rights normative framework for corporations had all but vanished. One of the original creators of the UN Global Compact, Ruggie successfully got the discussions back on track, and over a multi-year period, produced the three-pronged strategy to focus energies and actions specifically the differentiated roles each actor plays in the corporate human rights discussion, which has been well received by most actors engaged in the debate.
Ruggie's report to the UN at the closure of his last mandate, reviewed an extended series of issues in which corporations clearly influence human rights realization on the ground. He also outlined a series of flaws of existing mechanisms available to guide, control, and seek redress for corporate behavior relative to human rights, identifying specific strengths and weaknesses within States, and by corporations in upholding human rights.
Only a few weeks ago, following the decision to renew his mandate as Special Representative, Ruggie presented his findings before States at the OECD annual meetings in Paris, and received much attention and interest from all actors present in his call to revisit and review the role that States play in ensuring human rights compliance from the corporate sector.
The next three years will likely include an advancement of discussions from all engaged parties in the corporate accountability debate.
Press Release: Centre for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA)