Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Proposed UN Framework for Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, a portal that provides coverage of corporate accountability issues, has brought together in one location:
  • the latest report to the United Nations Human Rights Council by John Ruggie, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN for Business and Human Rights, plus companion reports and addenda on the issue of corporate and investor responsibility in relation to human rights violations
  • government, NGO and legal expert responses to the report
Ruggie's report to the Council was presented yesterday and is the final report of his mandate:
"My report last year provided a succinct mapping of current standards and practices governing corporate responsibility and accountability in relation to human rights. It documented that this is a rapidly changing field, ranging from the evolution of international criminal law to innovations in voluntary initiatives. Each of these developments has strengths and weaknesses in reducing the incidence of corporate-related human rights abuses."

"But the overall problem, in my view, is that these measures constitute unrelated fragments of responses. They do not cohere as parts of a more systemic response with cumulative effects; they do not reach a scale that is commensurate with the challenges. This view is widely shared. In our extensive consultations, every stakeholder group, despite their other differences, has expressed the urgent need for a common framework of understanding, a foundation on which thinking and action can build in a cumulative fashion."

"Accordingly, my current report identifies a conceptual and policy framework for consideration by the Council. It is organized around three foundational principles: the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for more effective access to remedies."
Other Library Boy posts on business and human rights include:
  • Weekly Updates Available from Business and Human Rights Database (March 22, 2005): "Corporate profiles include news stories, items about investigations, lawsuits and enforcement actions, as well as official responses (...) The Centre has also just introduced a new feature, Weekly Updates, which are e-mail alerts with an interesting twist: companies are invited to respond to reports that criticise them, and the responses are included. This is to help keep the updates balanced and encourage companies to publicly address important labour and human rights concerns being raised by civil society organizations such as labour unions, development associations, Third World NGOs, and human rights organizations."
  • Amnesty International UK and USA's Human Rights, Trade and Investment Matters (June 28, 2006): "I picked up a reference to this document at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. The UK and USA branches of the international human rights NGO Amnesty International released a collection of articles last month that explore the connections between trade, investment and human rights, and consider the potential for integrating human rights into trade and investment agreements."
  • Business & Human Rights Resource Centre Website Relaunched (June 15, 2007): "The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, a research website set up by human rights NGOs and various academic organizations, has just launched its re-designed website.The Resource Centre is an independent non-profit that encourages companies to respect human rights by bringing reports about their conduct - positive & negative - to a global audience."
  • List of Documents Prepared by the Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Business and Human Rights (January 16, 2008): "A few years ago, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed a special representative on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations. That person's job is to identify standards of corporate responsibility; develop materials for human rights impact assessments of the activities of corporations abroad; elaborate on the role of States in effectively regulating corporations when it comes to human rights; and compile a compendium of best practices of States and corporations."
  • Human Rights Watch Report on Business and Human Rights (February 22, 2008): "There are no widely agreed overarching standards for all businesses, but instead many different standards that address select human rights, select companies or industries, or select countries or situations. The result is a messy and inconsistent patchwork of voluntary pledges that have limited application, generally do not fully align with international human rights norms, and in any case are frequently disregarded in practice (...)"
  • 'Corporate Culture' as a Basis for the Criminal Liability of Corporations (March 6, 2008): "The Australian law firm of Allens Arthur Robinson has recently prepared a study for the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights and Business that examines the way different jurisdictions have contemplated the basis for corporate criminal liability (...) Among the jurisdictions compared are: Australia, UK, Canada, United States, Switzerland, Finland, Japan, Austria, Belgium, South Africa, and many more."
  • International Investment Agreements and Human Rights (March 20, 2008): "The International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian-based NGO, recently prepared a study for the UN entitled 'International Investment Agreements, Business and Human Rights: Key Issues and Opportunities' (...) 'In the context of the state duty to protect and promote human rights, the most critical issue that arises are the duties to legislate in order to implement international human rights obligations into domestic law and to enforce such legislation. In investment law terms, this relates to what has been described in some texts as the right of host states to regulate. At the same time, however, IIAs limit the right of states to regulate, and these limits may extend to the state duty to protect and promote human rights'."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:20 pm

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