An Institutional Role for Civil Society within the U.N. Guiding Principles?: Comments on César Rodríguez-Garavito and Tatiana Andia 'Business and Human Rights: Beyond the End of the Beginning'

Implementing the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A South-Initiated North-South Dialogue Brown University, February 20-22, 2014

10 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2014  

Larry Catá Backer

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

Date Written: March 11, 2014

Abstract

Global human rights NGOs evidence the power and temptations of the great normative institutional forces that affect the governance projects of transnational society in the early 21st century. These forces — (1) the drive for order and rationality even within emerging polycentric orders beyond the state, and (2) the transformation of the individual within this polycentric universe from singular being to disembodied abstraction made flesh in the body of civil society — are irresistible. The first would transform global NGOs into the incarnation of individuals whose human rights are adversely affected by state and multi-national enterprises. The second would suggest the necessity of a unifying order to harmonize the state duty to protect and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights under the framework of the U.N. Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights. Both are problematic. But the NGOs critique of the current movement toward development of the GPs through the UN Working Group is well grounded. This paper considers both the challenges of the arguments for the institutionalization of NGOs within the normative framework of the UNGP and the strengths of their critique of the WG for missed opportunities. Two of these opportunities, to date ignored, are worthy of serious development. The first is a facility for delivering interpretations of the GPs whether or not deemed binding by state or enterprise instrumentalities. The second draws from the first. That application-interpretation facility might also include the creation of an institutional framework for providing a means of hearing specific complaints brought from individuals through representative civil society for determination of the application of the GPs in context. Another is worth considering for its dynamic effect on GP development — the strengthening of the remedial pillar to deepen it’s interpretation as an autonomous source of process and governance inclusion power of individuals, now represented by a civil society sector that is neither dependent on state and enterprises, as a subject rather than as an object of GP governance. The way to that goal requires substantial development, but its value appears clear.

Keywords: human rights, multinational corporations, state duty to protect, corporate responsibility, civil society, remedies, human rights due diligence

JEL Classification: F42, H19, H77, K33, L31, M14

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, An Institutional Role for Civil Society within the U.N. Guiding Principles?: Comments on César Rodríguez-Garavito and Tatiana Andia 'Business and Human Rights: Beyond the End of the Beginning' (March 11, 2014). Implementing the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A South-Initiated North-South Dialogue Brown University, February 20-22, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2407787 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2407787

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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