4/18/08 Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights, business-humanrights.org. The report prepared by John Ruggie will be considered by the UN Human Rights Council at its Geneva session June 2-13, 2008. Ruggie, the UN Special Representative on Human Rights and Business, calls for a new 3-pronged international policy framework to govern corporate accountability in the area of human rights: further promoting (1) the State duty to protect, (2) the corporate sector’s responsibility to respect, and (3) mechanisms for redress for victims of human rights abuses perpetrated by corporations. Ruggie’s findings, after a consultation and investigative process that began in June 2005, are that the “international community is still in the early stages of adapting the human rights regime to provide more effective protection to individuals and communities against corporate-related human rights harm.” (para. 1) The report adds that “the root cause of the business and human rights predicament today lies in the governance gaps created by globalization”.(para. 3). He says that “the business and human rights agenda remains hampered because it has not yet been framed in a way that fully reflects the complexities and dynamics of globalization” (para. 10) … and “currently lacks an authoritative focal point”. (para. 5). Ruggie highlights inefficiencies and misalignments of the present system, emphasizing the lack of a systematic approach, weak adherence to corporate commitments, weak grievance mechanisms, and the “adverse effects of domestic policy incoherence” (para. 33) A key point is that international investment arbitration mechanisms, such as the ICSID, which were designed to resolve disputes between States and corporations are at odds with the effective protection of human rights. Ruggie says stabilization clauses in bilateral investment treaties are largely closed and nontransparent, leaving affected communities without key information about potential human rights impacts of corporate activity. (para.37) State Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) are mentioned as investment promoters that can neglect their responsibilities to uphold the obligations of the State relative to human rights. (para. 40) Ruggie calls for existing “human rights treaty bodies to play an important role in making recommendation to States on implementing their obligations to protect rights vis a vis corporate activity.” (para. 43) The report says the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises guidelines are “the most widely applicable set of government-endorsed standards related to corporate responsibility and human rights”, but “their current human rights provisions not only lack specificity, but in key respects have fallen behind the voluntary standards of many companies and business organizations." (para 46) Ruggie welcomes advances made by national government offices of the OECD Guidelines process (called NCPs) such as the Dutch office which has incorporated multi-stakeholder teams to review complaints, but more generally says that “in practice they have too often failed to [apply the Guidelines].” (para. 98) Some offices, notes Ruggie, suffer conflicts of interest by having to both promote private corporate investments while at the same time review complaints against the same investments. Ruggie notes corporate finance standards such as the Equator Principles to develop grievance procedure, currently lacking in most development finance schemes. (para. 100) Ruggie steers the UN away from pressing for binding legislation, conceived under the UN Human Rights Norms for Business, because the norms “define a limited list of rights linked to imprecise and expansive responsibilities” (para. 51). Ruggie provides corporations with concrete recommendations about how corporations can do better on human rights: (1) adopt a human rights policy, (2) conduct impact assessments about the “potential implications of their activities before they begin”, (3) integrate their human rights policy throughout the company, and (4) track performance. Ruggie’s recommendations go to the responsible agencies, such as the Human Rights Council, with direct recommendations and a specific three tiered agenda centered around the Duty to Protect, the responsibility to Respect and the need for stronger Grievance Procedures. The question is how the UN will take Ruggie’s framework suggestion forward (if at all) and how States, which were extremely reluctant to engage in a corporate accountability discussion under the previous draft Norms era, will react. Will the Human Rights Council work towards binding legislation? Will States come together in a collective manner to strengthen national corporate compliance? Will more work be done to bring greater collective harmony and coherence to a highly un-articulate global corporate accountability system? Will Ruggie’s mandate be extended to focus on his proposed areas of advocacy? Many agree that the mere existence of the mandate keeps the corporate accountability and human rights agenda alive. International agencies like the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and many large private corporations are able to work and deepen the human rights debate, simply because the UN has named a Special Representative to work on the issue. Contact: Jorge Daniel Taillant firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. +54 9 11 67 29 54 66. Comment: The Ruggie report gives appropriate recognition to voluntary efforts to protect human rights, but presses to extend these protections to all workers and communities.