‘Re-Righting Business’: John Ruggie and the Struggle to Develop International Human Rights Standards for Transnational Firms
Susan Ariel Aaronson
National War College; George Washington University - Elliott School of International Affairs
September 4, 2011
As the major players in globalization, firms often operate in states where human rights may not be respected. Without direct intent, firms may be complicit in human rights violations. In 2008, John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative on business and human rights, developed a framework for policymakers to protect human rights and for executives to respect human rights. On 16 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed Ruggie’s ‘Guiding Principles’ for implementing this framework. This article describes how firms, states, and to a lesser extent NGOs, have responded to this delineation of the human rights responsibilities of business. We make four key points: the Guiding Principles are an important advance in global governance; the process of developing the Guiding Principles was a model of transparent, inclusive 21st century governance, yet the public is generally unaware of the issue or the new policy; that the Guiding Principles are a creative and broad rethinking of how to evaluate the human rights performance of corporations; and that the Guiding Principles are unlikely to have much influence unless policymakers educate their home firms regarding their human rights responsibilities and press these executives to act.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: human rights, business, globalization, global governance, trade, multinationals
JEL Classification: P16, N40, O19, K33, F00, F10, F15, F42, N40working papers series
Date posted: September 5, 2011
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