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June 22, 2011
UN Human Rights Council Endorses Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
    by Robert Kropp

Authored by Special Representative John Ruggie, the Principles state that business enterprises are responsible for remediation of human rights violations in which they are involved.

In what it described in a press release as "an unprecedented step," the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed last week the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of Professor John Ruggie, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Business and Human Rights (UNSRSG).

Published in an Advance Edited Version in March, the Guiding Principles seek to provide guidance for implementation of the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework submitted to the Council by Ruggie in 2008.

The Framework, Ruggie wrote, "rests on three pillars: the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that occur; and greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial."

Described by Rev. David Schilling, the director of human rights for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), as a "significant breakthrough and an indispensible resource for investors in assessing the human rights performance of companies," the Guidelines state that "Business enterprises…should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved."

"In order to meet their responsibility to respect human rights," the Guidelines continued, "Business enterprises should have in place…A policy commitment to meet their responsibility to respect human rights; a human rights due-diligence process…and processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute. Business enterprises need to know and show that they respect human rights."

In March, Schilling told that investors "are catalysts for embedding the Guiding Principles into business practice."

"We see this as risk mitigation," Schilling said, "But we also want to know as a result of this how conditions are improving in factories, in farms, on the ground, and in communities; and if violations do occur, that remediation happens swiftly, and they are prevented from happening again."

Responding to the Council's endorsement, Ruggie said that the Guiding Principles will "provide civil society, investors and others the tools to measure real progress in the daily lives of people."


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