Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Setback for Ruggie vision

February 2011

An alliance of NGOs has severely criticised the proposed United Nations framework on business and human rights – damaging hopes that a consensus on its final shape may soon emerge.

In a joint statement signed by a coalition of human rights groups and led by Amnesty International, the NGOs say the draft ‘guiding principles’ produced by John Ruggie, the UN’s special representative on business and human rights, ‘risk undermining efforts to strengthen corporate responsibility and accountability for human rights’.  

The group complains that Ruggie’s ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ framework does not sufficiently outline the role of governments as regulators, fails to state clearly how companies should avoid human rights abuses, lacks mandatory requirements on due diligence, and does not set out a clear plan for grievance procedures against companies.  It also calls for the framework to be more specific on issues such as children’s rights, governance and indigenous peoples.

Ruggie, who will present his final report on the framework – which has so far been broadly welcomed by business – to the UN Human Rights Council this summer, expressed disappointment at the NGO response.

‘These same organizations keep telling the world that there are currently no global standards in the area of business and human rights, causing both governments and business enterprises to fall far short of desired practices,’ he said. ‘In contrast, the UN framework and guiding principles elevate standards of conduct significantly.

‘Amnesty and the others would have a lot to answer for if they actually were to oppose Human Rights Council endorsement of this hard-won initiative ... We have a proposal on the table that enjoys broad support from governments, business associations, individual companies, as well as a wide array of civil society and workers’ organizations.

‘Do Amnesty and the others really urge its defeat – delivering “nothing” to victims yet again? How much longer will they ask victims to wait in the name of some abstract and elusive global regulatory regime when practical results are achievable now?’

United Nations | Global | Human rights

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