Regulating Multinationals: The UN Guiding Principles, Civil Society, and International Legalization

Business and Human Rights: Beyond the End of the Beginning, César Rodriguez-Garavito, ed., Forthcoming

15 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2014

See all articles by John Gerard Ruggie

John Gerard Ruggie

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: July 30, 2014

Abstract

Calls to regulate transnational corporations (TNCs) through a single overarching international treaty instrument go back to the 1970s. Over time, pressure for such a treaty has come most persistently from activists, and more intermittently from developing countries. A recent civil society assessment sums up the record to date: “All these efforts met with vigorous opposition from TNCs and their business associations, and they ultimately failed.” In contrast, in June 2011 the Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs), which I developed over the course of a six year mandate as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights, through nearly fifty international consultations in all regions of the world. The GPs are the first authoritative guidance that the Council and its predecessor body, the Commission on Human Rights, have issued for states and business enterprises on their respective obligations in relation to business and human rights; and it marked the first time that either body “endorsed” a normative text on any subject that governments did not negotiate themselves. In comparison with normative and policy developments in other difficult domains, such as climate change, uptake of the GPs has been relatively swift and widespread. This paper addresses the logic behind the UN Guiding Principles, and what form of international legalization is best suited to build on them.

Keywords: Globalization, Multinational Corporations, Human Rights, Civil Society, International Legalization

Suggested Citation

Ruggie, John Gerard, Regulating Multinationals: The UN Guiding Principles, Civil Society, and International Legalization (July 30, 2014). Business and Human Rights: Beyond the End of the Beginning, César Rodriguez-Garavito, ed., Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2474236

John Gerard Ruggie (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-384-7569 (Phone)
617-496-0063 (Fax)

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