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23 Sep 2021

Jon Jacoby

In Memory of John G. Ruggie: Tribute by Jon Jacoby

John’s passing came as very sad and seemingly sudden news for us here at the Open Society Foundations. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, students, colleagues, and all who knew this brilliant, empathetic man. His is an immense legacy in our business and human rights movement, and in our world.

To know John was to learn from him. My only regret: I never had the chance to sit in on one of his IR classes at Harvard or Columbia. I understand that his classroom was a dynamic and rewarding place.

John so skillfully straddled academia and the UN/multilateral arena. Through his remarkable acumen and diplomacy, he developed the global norms on business respect for human rights that have given the world an actionable framework for human rights and corporate accountability in the 21st century.

John’s brilliance continues to shine through in the common vocabulary that he and his talented team developed. Multinational companies, institutional investors, and human rights activists alike now speak of – and advocate for – human rights due diligence, a smart mix of binding and voluntary measures, and so on.

John’s words always carried such weight with his audiences – from small meetings to large keynotes. The insight, clarity, and persuasiveness of his remarks at two events in particular - the launch of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights in New York in May 2018, and the European Union event on corporate human rights due diligence in Brussels in December 2019 – have propelled those exciting initiatives enormously in the time since. Realizing John’s and countless others’ vision for strong and effective due diligence laws would constitute a worthy and lasting tribute to his memory.