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28 Jan 2014

John Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights

[PDF] A UN Business and Human Rights Treaty? An Issues Brief by John G. Ruggie

At the September 2013 session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the delegation of Ecuador delivered a statement stressing “the necessity of moving forward toward a legally binding framework to regulate the work of transnational corporations..."...This proposal potentially brings the business and human rights agenda to a new inflection point...First, no matter what ultimately may be decided on the treaty front, the Council needs to determine what more it might do in the here and now to achieve the GPs implementation agenda...Second, if and when the Council decides to explore further international legalization in this space, it should carefully weigh the extent to which different forms of legalization would be capable of yielding practical results where it matters most: in the daily lives of affected individuals and communities around the world....Enumerating these challenges is not an argument against treaties. But it is a cautionary note to avoid going down a road that would end in largely symbolic gestures, of little practical use to real people in real places, and with high potential for generating serious backlash against any form of further international legalization in this domain...international legal instruments must and will play a role in the continued evolution of the business and human rights regime, but to be successful they should be “carefully constructed precision tools,” addressed to specific governance gaps that other means are not reaching...