In Memory of John G. Ruggie: Tribute by Harriet E. Berg
22 September 2021
I would like to express my sadness at the news that John Ruggie died a few days ago.
John Ruggie led us through the challenging work it was to combine global political and social challenges in very different parts of the world with the micro-economic realities of business. Through his ability to gather different interests around a common challenge he also crafted a path that balanced very different interests, leading to the UN guiding principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). He based his work on the input by many visionary people and organisations, but he was the one that was able to bring the efforts together in the creation of a very concrete tool through the UNGPs.
As a diplomat at the Norwegian UN Mission in Geneva, I was privileged to be part of this work in the Human Rights Council. Here Norway, together with Russia, Argentina and Ghana formed the core group for the resolutions on Business and Human Rights, based on the solid ground that John Ruggie had created with his team. This ground was so solid that it still is the foundation of the work of the United Nations, the OECD, NGOs, business, and other institutions seeking to ensure that business activities are sustainable not only financially, but also by being a part of the solution to the global challenges we are facing today.
Today we are at a point where there is not turning back. But we would not have been here without John Ruggie’s sound leadership, making sure that the UNGPs are anchored in international human rights norms and standards and at the same time pragmatic enough to sustain the test of reality.
I thank John Ruggie for helping us in addressing corporate abuses and upholding human rights for all, also when we are facing the new challenges of a global economy. We will be inspired by his brilliant arguments and ideas, his creativity, and his energy, never giving up in the struggle to find future-proof solutions.
Harriet E. Berg