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Commentary by John Ruggie: “A Moment of Truth for UN Business and Human Rights Treaty”

"The Past as Prologue? A Moment of Truth for UN Business and Human Rights Treaty", 8 Jul 2014

Calls to regulate transnational corporations (TNCs) through an international treaty instrument go back to the 1970s... In a sharply divided vote, the Council adopted the proposal [to establish an intergovernmental working group to negotiate a treaty] on June 26, 2014...Going forward, the answer hinges on whether the initiative’s supporters are more interested in making a difference than in making a point, and whether its opponents can accept that some form of further international legalization in business and human rights is both necessary and desirable. I elaborate on these scenarios below...However this plays out, governments, businesses, and NGOs need to redouble (or in many cases, begin) efforts to implement and further develop the Guiding Principles, including through National Action Plans that set out clear expectations for governments and all types of business enterprises. No future treaty, real or imagined, can substitute for the need to achieve further progress in the here and now. Indeed, the more that is accomplished by building on this widely supported foundation, the less politicized and polarized the debate about international legalization will become. Principled pragmatism may yet continue to prevail. 

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