Business and Human Rights (UN Human Rights Council)

Business and Human Rights (UN Human Rights Council)

Summary of discussions of the 2013 Forum on Business and Human Rights

April 15, 2014 

As a follow-up mechanism to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (see below), UN the Human Rights Council established a Forum on Business and Human Rights "under the guidance of the Working Group." The Forum is mandated to "discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights," among multiple stakeholders. The Forum has no decision-making power or political mandate to deliver recommendations to the Human Rights Council; its only formal outcome is a Chair's summary of the discussion. The 2013 session had 1,489 pre-registered participants from over 110 countries, with around 17 per cent from business enterprises and associations, law firms, business advisory services and consultancies, 36 per cent from civil society, and 14 per cent from state delegations. More than 160 representatives from transnational corporations, including around 50 from major oil, gas and mining companies (e.g. AngloGold Ashanti, BP, Chevron, Rio Tinto, Shell, Total, Vale) were registered, as well as more than 50 representatives of business and industry associations. This is the advance edited version of the summary of the 2013 Forum session, prepared by the chairperson, Makarim Wibisono. 

Report of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, transmitted to the 68th Session of the General Assembly

August 7, 2013

As the other follow-up to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (see below), the UN Human Rights Council established a Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The group consists of five independent experts, of balanced geographical representation, with a three-year mandate that began in November 2011. The Council defined as the main objective of the Working Group "to promote the effective and comprehensive dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles (...)." This is their second and most recent annual report to the General Assembly. For all reports of the Working Group (to the UN Human Rights Council, General Assembly, etc) please see their website.

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework

June 16, 2011

Presented by Special Represeentative for business and human rights John Ruggie, the Guiding Principles "operationalize" and promote the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework (below). Like the Framework, the Guiding Principles exclusively focus on the duties of the State towards guaranteeing human rights, while emphasizing (voluntary) corporate responsibility standards and human rights due diligence. Many civil society groups expressed dissatisfaction with the legal weakness of the Guiding Principles, while major business associations, trasnanational corporations and international law firms (sometimes on behalf of their corporate clients) expressed strong support for the Special Representative and the results of his work. The Guiding Principles were unanimously endorsed by the governments of the UN Human Rights Council on June 16, 2011.  (UN Human Rights Council)

For analysis on the role of transnational corporations in the formation and follow-up of the Guiding Principles, see GPF's new report Corporate Influence on the Business and Human Rights Agenda.

Treaty Road Not Travelled

Article May 6, 2008

John Ruggie, UN special representative for business and human rights, argues against legally binding rules for transnational corporations under international law - a policy that GPF has long advocated. Defending his position, Ruggie argues that it takes a long time to negotiate a treaty and governments may evoke the negotiations as a pretext to not take any action on a national level. Ruggie further argues that enforcing a treaty would be difficult, rejecting the idea of an international court for companies. (Business and Human Rights)

Protect, Respect, and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights

Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, John Ruggie April 7, 2008

Report by John Ruggie, presenting a conceptual framework comprising three core 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. (UN Human Rights Council)

Report on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Related Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights

February 15, 2005

This United Nations report provides an overview of the existing corporate social responsibility initiatives and standards. It also discusses the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights, and makes recommendations on how to advance the dialogue between states, transnational corporations and other stakeholders. (UN Commission on Human Rights)

UN Norms on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights

August 2003

The UN Sub-commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights adopted norms stating that "transnational corporations ..., as organs of society, are also responsible for promoting and securing ... human rights," including the right to development. While those norms signify an important step towards codification of corporate accountability, they do not include binding monitoring mechanisms.

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Advisory Committee: Yves Berthelot (France),  PV Rajagopal (India), Vandana Shiva (India), Oliver de Schutter (Belgium), Mazide N’Diaye (Senegal), Gabriela Monteiro (Brazil), Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia), Anne Pearson (Canada), Liz Theoharis (USA), Sulak Sivaraksa (Thailand), Jagat Basnet (Nepal), Miloon Kothari (India),  Irene Santiago (Philippines), Arsen Kharatyan (Armenia), Margrit Hugentobler (Switzerland), Jill Carr-Harris (Canada/India), Reva Joshee (Canada), Sonia Deotto (Mexico/Italy),Benjamin Joyeux (Geneva/France), Aneesh Thillenkery, Ramesh Sharma, Ran Singh (India)