Business and Human Rights: The Search for Effective Remedies

9 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2011

Date Written: December 6, 2010


Are John Ruggie’s Guiding Principles going far enough? Maybe yes, from the perspective of States, but for sure no from the perspective of human rights NGOs, and in between from the perspective of the present paper. It shortly discusses some core notions and shortcomings: 1) Let States share their responsibilities with the civil society, without ‘privatizing these responsibilities away.’ 2) Keep using and further developing other means of pressure upon companies, alongside the legal ones; ask States to further frame the context and the space for self-regulation; keep pressuring upon further detailing international obligations, including ongoing specifications of the concept of extraterritoriality. 3) Keep reading promises by companies into contracts. 4) Keep emphasizing that treaty bodies and Courts have to go after the real perpetrators and should not be ‘captured’ and hindered by the traditional international law paradigm. 5) Keep looking at the reliability of national legal systems and the need to have backups, preferably by other national systems or, if appropriate and needed, international ones. 6) Keep looking at practical problems such as costs, the absence of (para)legal representation, the non-accessibility of legal language. 7) Keep using ‘in between means’ such as round tables, mediation and arbitration. Emphasis upon prevention and being proactive if possible, while using proportional, low cost means first, with hard legal means as last resort. Finally, 8) Keep emphasizing the need of human rights impact assessments, in order to work evidence based. Human rights discourses are sometimes driven by morality and ideals, but the best approaches match with empirical findings.

Keywords: Business, Human Rights, Ruggie, Humanization, Extra-Territoriality

JEL Classification: K13, K33

Suggested Citation

Genugten, Willem van, Business and Human Rights: The Search for Effective Remedies (December 6, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Willem van Genugten (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law School ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE

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