Professor John Ruggie Presents Business and Human Rights Framework

well thank you very much and it’s very good to to be here as as was just mentioned our work draws heavily on the work of the ILO if there’s one organization in the world that doesn’t need it a general introduction to the subject of business in human rights it’s the it’s the ILO you’ve been at this not you personally the organization since 1919 and as you mentioned the tripartite declaration anticipated a great deal of subsequent normative development that that people are still drawing on in fact in my own mandate on matters of workers rights I’ve simply referred in deferred to the ILO and drawn on the work of the organization and focused our efforts on on the the broader strategic issues of business relations with communities and societies as a whole and in addition to to workers so let me take a few minutes to outline a little bit of the background of the mandate and where we are today and then focus in on a couple of elements of the of the policy framework that we’ve developed that may be of particular interest to you one having to do with the notion of human rights due diligence on the part of companies and the other on grievance mechanisms which obviously relate very closely to to worker management issues the framework rests on three pillars the first being the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by by by third parties including business through appropriate policies regulation and adjudication this is a a pillar that is heavily infused with legal obligations on the part of States and we also provided a number of policy rationales for why states and state entities ought to adopt certain policies for example export credit agencies when they promote an investment in a conflict zone ought to require a heightened level of due diligence then if the investment goes into Denmark for example so that’s the state duty to protect secondly the corporate responsibility to respect human rights which as was noted means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that may occur and then third and finally greater access by victims to effective remedy both judicial and non-judicial so it’s a comprehensive framework in that it involves the major players as it were it clearly differentiates the roles of states and the roles of businesses we don’t believe that business should take on the roles of government we believe governments should do what governments are intended to do which is to govern and to govern in the public interest business is here to do business but in the process of doing business business ought not to infringe on the rights of others that’s the the fundamental point that we are making and both states and companies can contribute to effective remedy by providing both non-judicial in the case of business certainly and also judicial avenues of redress how does a company avoid infringing on the rights of others how does it know how does a company know that it respects human rights it’s okay for companies to say they respect human rights but how do they know how do they demonstrate to themselves and to others that they do well the answer that we’ve provided the appropriate response to managing the risk of infringing on the rights of others is to exercise adequate due diligence in my current report we we actually have a bumper sticker line of which I’m very proud it says human rights due diligence is a potential game-changer for companies they can move the game from naming and shaming to knowing and showing their words rather than reacting to external criticism and companies can develop their own internal systems to know what impacts they are having that may infringe on the rights of others and then demonstrate that that they are addressing those challenges we live in the world of 80,000 transnational corporations ten times as many subsidiaries and millions and millions of SMEs and it makes no sense to expect an SME to follow the same due diligence procedures as a company that has two hundred thousand employees and operates in two hundred countries in the world so what what we’re saying there is that the principles ought to be universally applicable right but the methodologies and the tools that are employed obviously will differ depending on circumstances and and and the size of the company and even to some extent the the industry sector so considered in that spirit the components if you will of a due diligence process consists of four elements one a a a statement of policy or commitment or principles or whatever the company calls them to respect human rights secondly periodic assessments of the actual and potential human rights impact of company activities and relationships relationships with third parties security forces if you’re operating in in in a difficult environment for example thirdly the integration of these commitments and and assessments into a company in internal oversight and control systems and fourthly tracking and reporting performance as I say the the scale of this process for a small and medium-sized enterprise it’ll be as much cognitive as it will be institutional because of the the nature or the size of the enterprise itself company grievance mechanisms company level grievance mechanisms however can serve two very important functions quite apart from that one company level grievance mechanisms can provide a feedback loop and a monitoring system that the company employs which which which gets information directly from those it impacts enabling them to raise concerns early before they escalate one of the things that we discovered in our research is that relatively let me put it this way many made many human rights allegations against companies for four major human rights violations it turns out emerge not as major human rights violations they emerge as minor grievances that are ignored I noted it at the outset that I look to the ILO for guidance on labor rights issues one area where further guidance would be helpful is what has come to be known as precarious work the growth in contract based work or casualization or whatever your favorite expression of it may be and it’s possible implications for workers rights this subject has been raised in several of my stakeholder consultations as well as in written submissions to my mandate by by workers organizations I am NOT an expert in this area but but you are and I look forward to getting guidance from the ILO on this subject so in conclusion let me just say that I’m very pleased that the protect respect and remedy framework has been so well received by all stakeholders we’ve just come through another Human Rights Council meeting 25 delegations spoke they were all extremely supportive the expectation which was not part of the original mandate but it was expressed by these delegations is that we should present a set of guiding principles for consideration by the Human Rights Council after extensive consultations with with all stakeholders including business workers civil society and of course with with governments themselves there there is no single silver bullet solution to business and human rights challenges it’s an extremely complex area as the current economic crisis has underscored starkly all social actors have to learn to do many things differently from the way in which we’ve done them in the past if we are going to succeed but those things must go here and they must generate cumulative progress in in the business in human rights domain in our own small way that’s what we hope the protect respect and remedy framework will help achieve so thank you very much


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