Encouraging Greater Compliance: Local Networks and the United Nations Global Compact
THE PERSISTENT POWER OF HUMAN RIGHTS: FROM COMMITMENT TO COMPLIANCE; edited by Thomas Risse, Stephen Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2013
36 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2012
Date Written: October 15, 2011
Human rights norms are today a central aspect of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda. After decades of exclusive attention to the behavior of states, human rights activists began during the late 1980s and 1990s to increase their pressures on corporate actors and demand commitment to and compliance with basic human rights in the business world. Unlike states, corporations lack international legal personality and cannot express commitment by signing on to formal international human rights treaties. Apart from voluntary standards, codes of conduct, and other UN standard-setting activities directed at businesses, the Global Compact (GC) represents to date the main UN sanctioned soft law designed to commit corporations to international standards of human rights and environmental protection. The GC does not replace the main compliance mechanisms set out by the legal obligations assumed by states under international law, but its goal is to supplement those existing mechanisms with an additional, non-binding avenue of promoting universal human rights principles. This essay argues that the relevance of the GC as a means to move businesses towards greater respect for human rights depends to a large degree on the emergence of local GC networks effectively faciliating engagement with civil society, learning about best practices, and providing a forum of deliberation. These services provided by local networks are particuarly important for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Keywords: United Nations Global Compact, corporate social responsibility, human rights, local networks
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