“Building on a Landmark Year and Thinking Ahead”
by John Ruggie
A London Guardian blog recently described 2011 as “a landmark year” for human rights—starting with the Arab spring. It went on to say:
“2011 was also a landmark year for business and human rights: John Ruggie’s guiding principles were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, and then incorporated into the new OECD guidelines, ISO26000 and the sustainability policy of the IFC.”
In October 2011, the European Commission took the first step in the same direction when it issued its new corporate social responsibility policy for 2011-2014, stating that the Commission “Expects all European enterprises to meet the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, as defined in the UN Guiding Principles,” and “Invites EU Member States to develop by the end of 2012 national plans for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles.”
And in a different part of the world, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has announced that the first thematic study by its relatively new Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights would focus on business and human rights. One of the Commissioners has said:
“The target for this thematic study is an ASEAN Guideline that is fully compliant with the UN frameworks, especially the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework for Business and Human Rights and the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights which were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council.”
In a relatively short period of time we have managed to achieve unprecedented convergence regarding the steps states and business enterprises must take to meet their respective human rights commitments.
Thus, in a relatively short period of time we have managed to achieve unprecedented convergence among major international standard setting bodies regarding the steps states and business enterprises must take to meet their respective human rights commitments under the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Guiding Principles.
Convergence is desirable for two reasons. First, reducing the number of competing fragmentary approaches provides greater clarity and predictability for businesses, affected individuals and communities, and other stakeholders. This will produce larger-scale change than in the past, as well as change that is more cumulative in its effects over time. Second, several of these standard setting bodies have implementation mechanisms that complement—indeed, go beyond—those of the United Nations.
Reprinted from The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) blog. IHRB is dedicated to the relationship between business and internationally proclaimed human rights standards. Professor John Ruggie of Harvard University served as the UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights from 2005-2011. He is currently the Chair of IHRB’s International Advisory Board.
Category: Sustainable Small-B