Putting 'Human Rights' Back into the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Shifting Frames and Embedding Participation Rights

Business and Human Rights: Beyond the Beginning (Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito ed. 2014)

SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-032

21 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2014 Last revised: 27 Aug 2014

Date Written: July 1, 2014

Abstract

This book contribution responds to an important and timely question: How, looking forward, can we take the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs) “beyond the end of the beginning,” ensuring that cumulative, step-by-step progress is in fact made in improving companies’ real-world and on-the-ground compliance with human rights standards? Finding the specific proposals made by the former SRSG John Ruggie, and largely echoed by the volume’s editors, wanting in this regard, the contribution recognizes the basis of those proposals as resting upon a highly inaccurate, but politically powerful, frame that has been widely promoted in international circles to defend the GPs and distance them from human rights NGOs. That frame serves not only to dramatically misrepresent the reasons human rights groups have been so uniformly critical of the GPs, but also, most consequentially, creates a cognitive frame that leads almost inevitably to proposed “intermediate pathways” forward that bear little relationship to the actual problems diagnosed. The piece argues that a new frame for situating international debate on the GPs is critically needed. Part I offers what the author sees as a far more accurate frame. Parts II and III then use this frame to rethink answers to the two key questions identified by the volume’s editors for constructively taking the GPs “beyond the end of the beginning”: How can “empowered civil society participation” effectively be incorporated into the GPs’ “dynamic logic”? And, what role, if any, does a human rights treaty instrument have to play?

Keywords: UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, framing strategy, John Ruggie, corporate accountability, human rights, treaty law, civil society participation

Suggested Citation

Melish, Tara J., Putting 'Human Rights' Back into the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Shifting Frames and Embedding Participation Rights (July 1, 2014). Business and Human Rights: Beyond the Beginning (Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito ed. 2014); SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-032. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2475629

Tara J. Melish (Contact Author)

SUNY Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
525 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
(716) 645-2257 (Phone)

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