From Guiding Principles to Interpretive Organizations: Developing a Framework for Applying the UNGPs to Disputes that Institutionalizes the Advocacy Role of Civil Society

Business and Human Rights: Beyond the End of the Beginning (César Rodríguez-Garavito, ed., 2015)

Penn State Law Research Paper No. 40-2014

10 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2014 Last revised: 13 Dec 2016

Larry Catá Backer

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

Date Written: September 23, 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 chapter’s thesis is this: the logic of emerging meta-governance points to the need to establish a central mechanism for the interpretation of transnational normative governance instruments and particularly the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and the logic of emerging mass governance principles points to the need to vest representative civil society organizations with the authority to bring cases and advocate before such an interpretive body. Movements to develop comprehensive treaty structures pose a threat to the establishment of a workable transnational order compatible with the realities of contemporary governance. This chapter considers both the challenges of the arguments for the institutionalization of NGOs within the normative framework of the UNGPs and the strengths of their critique of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (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 at the international level. The second, drawing from the first, would incorporate civil society as a key representative of individuals seeking an interpretation of the INGPs in particular contexts. It follows that the application-interpretation facility requires not just the establishment not just of an institutional framework for providing a means of hearing specific complaints, but one in which individuals could bring these complaints through representative civil society for determination of the application of the GPs in context. The object is to more fully develop the UNGP’s remedial third pillar through the creation of an internationally based autonomous source of process and governance that raises the stakeholder status of individuals, now represented by a civil society sector under the third pillar that states enjoy under the first pillar and enterprises enjoy under the second. The way to that goal requires substantial development, but its value appears clear.

Keywords: human rights, civil society, multinational corporaitons, CSR, Guiding Principles, OECD

JEL Classification: K33, M14, O19

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, From Guiding Principles to Interpretive Organizations: Developing a Framework for Applying the UNGPs to Disputes that Institutionalizes the Advocacy Role of Civil Society (September 23, 2014). Business and Human Rights: Beyond the End of the Beginning (César Rodríguez-Garavito, ed., 2015); Penn State Law Research Paper No. 40-2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2501167

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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