Comments on 2010 report by John Ruggie to Human Rights Council

 

Reports to UN Human Rights Council > 2010 > Comments on the report

 

 

 

Comments on the Special Representative’s 2010 report to the UN Human Rights Council [PDF] are below.  Further comments from all stakeholders are welcome, and may be sent to Greg Regaignon at [email protected]

 

 


Intl. Service for Human Rights - Jun 2010

The Special Rapporteur of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Mr John Ruggie, presented his annual report to the 14th session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) on 1 and 2 June 2010. The Council held an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative...

Mr Ruggie briefly presented his three-pronged framework...[which] includes the duty of States to protect their citizens against human rights abuses committed by businesses, the corporate responsibility to self-regulate to avoid violations and infringements of human rights, and the increased access for victims to effective judicial and non-judicial remedies...
The overall tone of the interactive dialogue was quite positive with many States offering supportive statements on the work of the Special Representative. Several States stressed the need to hold businesses to account for the human rights impacts of their operations...
The European Union highlighted ‘significant work’ underway in Europe to join economic aspirations with a commitment to human rights. China reiterated the necessity of protecting workers and resolved to continue addressing workers’ concerns. While the United States offered support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, the delegation notably did not make mention of the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico or of any intention of tightening regulations on multinational corporations...
A number of States commented on the Special Representative’s focus on businesses operating on conflict-affected areas...
[Some states] highlighted aspects of particular interest to them. Both Bangladesh and Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC) focused on the ‘respect’ aspect of the framework, saying that outlining how businesses have to respect human rights is most important. In this context, Bangladesh pointed out how difficult it is for developing countries to hold large trans-national corporations to account. It also suggested that the guidelines to be drafted by Mr Ruggie include elements of responsibility of the home States in holding businesses to account.
The mandate of the Special Representative and how the Council could continue work on the issue of business an human rights after its expiry gave rise to several concrete suggestions by States and NGOs...
South Africa suggested that the Special Representative outline in a roadmap the steps envisaged towards the creation of a legally binding instrument on business and human rights, while NGOs proposed the establishment of a high level commission with the mandate of drafting a code of conduct for companies and setting up a universal body to receive complaints...

The Special Rapporteur of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Mr John Ruggie, presented his annual report to the 14th session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) on 1 and 2 June 2010. The Council held an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative...

Mr Ruggie briefly presented his three-pronged framework...[which] includes the duty of States to protect their citizens against human rights abuses committed by businesses, the corporate responsibility to self-regulate to avoid violations and infringements of human rights, and the increased access for victims to effective judicial and non-judicial remedies...

The overall tone of the interactive dialogue was quite positive with many States offering supportive statements on the work of the Special Representative. Several States stressed the need to hold businesses to account for the human rights impacts of their operations...

The European Union highlighted ‘significant work’ underway in Europe to join economic aspirations with a commitment to human rights. China reiterated the necessity of protecting workers and resolved to continue addressing workers’ concerns. While the United States offered support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, the delegation notably did not make mention of the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico or of any intention of tightening regulations on multinational corporations... 

A number of States commented on the Special Representative’s focus on businesses operating on conflict-affected areas...

[Some states] highlighted aspects of particular interest to them. Both Bangladesh and Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC) focused on the ‘respect’ aspect of the framework, saying that outlining how businesses have to respect human rights is most important. In this context, Bangladesh pointed out how difficult it is for developing countries to hold large trans-national corporations to account. It also suggested that the guidelines to be drafted by Mr Ruggie include elements of responsibility of the home States in holding businesses to account.

The mandate of the Special Representative and how the Council could continue work on the issue of business an human rights after its expiry gave rise to several concrete suggestions by States and NGOs...

South Africa suggested that the Special Representative outline in a roadmap the steps envisaged towards the creation of a legally binding instrument on business and human rights, while NGOs proposed the establishment of a high level commission with the mandate of drafting a code of conduct for companies and setting up a universal body to receive complaints...

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Clifford Chance - Jun 2010

The latest report from the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights demonstrates a practical and balanced approach...

The Special Representative has identified five priority areas where States should strive to achieve greater policy coherence and effectiveness.

Firstly, States must safeguard their ability to promote and protect human rights. In this respect, the Special Representative has been particularly critical of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and host government agreements (HGAs) which, he suggests, may constrain States' ability to pursue legitimate policy reforms...

Secondly, States must ensure that when conducting business they also promote respect for human rights. In particular, State owned enterprises should respect human rights...

Thirdly, States should take steps to promote corporate cultures and business practices which respect human rights. In this section of his report, the Special Representative highlights corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies, reporting requirements, director's duties and criminal law...

Fourthly, the Special Representative noted that the worst business-related human rights abuses occurred in conflict affected areas. The Special Representative has convened a special working group to discuss approaches for preventing and mitigating business-related human rights abuses in conflict zones.

Fifth, noting that States have typically been reluctant to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction in this area, the Special Representative has indicated that he will continue consultations towards identifying options for tighter 'home' State regulation of business with respect to human rights.

The corporate responsibility to respect:... Its foundations are described in his recent report as follows:
- the responsibility to respect means avoiding the infringement of the rights of others and addressing adverse impacts when they occur;
- the scope of the responsibility depends on the actual and potential impacts generated by a company's business activities;
- the responsibility applies in relation to all internationally recognised human rights;
- in some industries and contexts certain rights will be more relevant than others, such as in conflict zones...or where business activity may affect vulnerable groups (such as indigenous peoples, women or children);
- the corporate 'responsibility to respect' exists independently of the duties or capacities of States in relation to human rights; 'it applies to all companies in all situations'

Discharging the 'responsibility to respect' requires due diligence. Adopting a legal compliance approach may assist companies to design reliable systems for assessing and addressing human rights risk.

Access to remedy...

Company level grievance mechanisms are said to be an important complement to State-based mechanisms...

The Special Representative has also endorsed State-sponsored non-judicial grievance mechanisms. In particular, he notes that National Human Rights Institutions...are a promising vehicle... The national contact points (NCPs) which hear complaints under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are also mentioned as having potential.

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Intl. Network for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) and Human Rights Watch - joint statement to UN Human Rights Council, 4 Jun 2010

We would like to address the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises...

...[We] agree with the view expressed by the SRSG in his report that one of the major gaps is the failure to enforce existing laws and that “for ‘at-risk’ and vulnerable groups,there may be inadequate legal protection in the first place.”

We also welcome the confirmation in the report that “the corporate responsibility to respect human rights exists independently of States’ duties or capacity [and] constitutes a universally applicable human rights responsibility for all companies, in all situations.” Nevertheless, the SRSG’s work to date has largely attributed the business responsibility to respect human rights to general social norms and market expectations... That view is open to debate and in any case the law is highly dynamic...

[The] Council’s twin tasks in relation to business and human rights [are]: defending the rights of those affected by corporate abuses around the world and articulating global standards to that end. We would sincerely welcome both elements having a central place in the next mandate.

Full statement [DOC]

 

 


Annette Hughes, Rachel Nicolson and Catie Shavin, Allens Arthur Robinson law firm - 4 May 2010

The latest report...details the progress he has made in operationalizing this framework, and in doing so, provides further guidance to corporations on the steps that can be taken to meet their responsibility to respect human rights.

As reported, the Special Representative's efforts over the past 12 months have included working to map corporate law and securities regulation relevant to human rights in more than 40 jurisdictions..., considering the due diligence contents of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and further developing and testing the framework's principles on company-based grievance mechanisms.

The report outlines its findings on each pillar of the ["Protect, Respect, Remedy"] framework made by the Special Representative's work to date.

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Larry Catá Backer, Professor, Penn State Univ. School of Law - 1 May 2010

John Ruggie recently submitted his report to 14th session of UN Human Rights Council... (The 2010 Report).  The Report serves as a crucial last step in the long process that began in 2006 when Mr. Ruggie started to distinguish what would become the Protect-Respect-Remedy project from the failed efforts to develop a set of Norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights and will end next year with the publication of a set of guiding principles for the operation of the Protect-Respect-Remedy framework.  This short essay considers the 2010 and its place in the process from theory to operating system.

The 2010 Report serves to refine the conceptualization of the Protect-Respect-Remedy framework and to provide the foundation for the development of a set of governance principles that will serve as the basis for operationalizing the framework. Reflecting the format of the original mandate, the SRSG first focused on principled pragmatism as the core working method utilized to move closer to operationalizing the Three Pillar framework. The remainder of the Report distilled the essence of each of the pillars and the linkages between them. This was meant to provide the last official version of the conceptual framework from which the final product of the mandate will be drawn—the guiding principles.

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Stéphane Brabant, Herbert Smith law firm - 28 Apr 2010

 

The latest annual report from John Ruggie was released publicly last week. Professor Ruggie's final report is due in 2011, shortly after the finalisation of the ISO 26000 standard (due to take place later this year). These two developments (which are closely connected) are likely to provide an important turning point in the business and human rights debate.

 

This report represents yet another step towards a recognition that the "soft law" of human rights as it currently applies to business is "softly hardening".

 

In this Report, Professor Ruggie begins to set out the "guiding principles" that will assist both states and companies in "operationalising" his suggested framework...

 

International "transactional"/project lawyers (and especially energy lawyers) can no longer afford to take the risk - and indeed this has been the case for some time - of advising investors only on the law applicable to the project (and its financing) without also advising on relevant "soft law" principles such as human rights.

 

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