Sunday, May 11, 2008

Protect, respect and remedy

Protect. Respect. Remedy.
Such is the framework proposed by John Ruggie, the United Nations' Special Representative on human rights, transnational corporations, and other business enterprises (and Harvard professor). After the Human Rights Commission rejected the Norms on Transnational Corporations that had been adopted by the Sub-commission on Human Rights in 2003, it asked then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a Special Representative to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility. In addition to examining the effects of stabilization clauses on human rights as Christiana Ochoa has posted, Ruggie has now released a report developing the framework based on 3 basic principles:
► States have a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties;
► Corporations have a duty to respect human rights; and
► Victims of violations need more effective access to remedies.
A first step toward implementing the "protect, respect, and remedy" framework will be to address "governance gaps:" transnational corporations (TNCs) have developed more quickly than the legal framework governing them has, and some states are unable to enforce domestic laws against such corporations. The worst allegations of corporate implication in human rights abuses stem from operations in poorer countries either in post-conflict transition or where conflict is ongoing; as well as in countries where the rule of law is weak and corruption prevalent. Beyond that, the report suggests that human rights treaty bodies need to make recommendations to states with regard to their duty to protect their citizens from corporate conduct that violates human rights and that the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation and Development should update its Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2000), which now lag behind many voluntary corporate codes of conduct. But it quite wisely advises against drawing up a laundry list of rights to which corporate liability extends, as corporations' activities effect most internationally recognized human rights.

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