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19 Sep 2021

Phil Bloomer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In Memory of John G. Ruggie: Tribute by Phil Bloomer and the Resource Centre

Our movement to put human rights at the heart of business, and end abuse, has lost a great leader in Professor John G. Ruggie. John epitomised the tough-minded, kind-hearted leadership we require to make bold advances in our troubled times. This approach, combined with his incisive intellect and his persuasive diplomatic skills, allowed him to lead the most important multilateral advance in business and human rights – the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). John's mandate ended with their approval ten years ago. Yet John continued to be a tireless global advocate for these principles and their rigorous implementation up to his death.

I know John was rightly proud of this achievement, and the UNGPs' global impact. But John was also often frustrated by the pace of implementation by both governments and business, and exasperated by those who sought to eviscerate them. John said the UNGPs were the floor and not the ceiling of international standards, and was an advocate of the 'smart mix' of voluntary and regulatory action. More recently, John warmly welcomed Commissioner Reynders’ announcement of the EU legislative initiative for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence. He made great efforts to be in Europe, just before the pandemic, to advise and advance this new regulatory approach. Perhaps the greatest tribute soon to John's commitment to this process will be the Commission's announcement in October of a draft law with teeth to ensure it has impact to protect workers and communities from abuse by unscrupulous companies.

As Gerald Pachoud highlighted in his tribute, John believed fiercely in 'principled pragmatism'. The beauty of his philosophy was that he could get things done, and harvest advances to build momentum for more ambitious goals. And anyone who searches for John's many statements on our site will conclude that John never let his pragmatism dim his commitment to hold abusers to account, speak truth to power, and insist on international human rights standards. This is the 'compassion and integrity' that Caroline Rees and Rachel Davis wrote about in their tribute.

I met John in my first weeks at the Resource Centre. He generously shared his insight and expertise to ensure the Resource Centre would continue to advance our shared cause. John also took time to establish a generous rapport and trust which lasted over the last decade. When I remember John now, it is the open smile, kind eyes, and acute mind that I recall.

Phil Bloomer and the Resource Centre Team