Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Ruggie report falls short of expectations

Today, John Ruggie, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for business and human rights, is to present his Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights report to the UN Human Rights Council. John Ruggies report identifies grave deficits in the current human rights regime that represent an obstacle to protection to individuals and communities against corporate-related human rights violations. He notes “escalating charges of corporate-related human rights abuses”, regarding this as “the canary in the coal mine, signalling that all is not well”. The Ruggie Report regards the governance gaps created by globalization as the root causes of the “business and human rights predicament. These governance gaps provide the permissive environment for wrongful acts by companies of all kind without adequate sanctioning and reparation”. Ruggie sees the fundamental challenge as identifying “how to narrow and ultimately bridge the gaps in relation to human rights”.

Nevertheless, according to a background paper written by Jens Martens of Global Policy Forum, the Report does not respond to the global governance gaps it notes with global governance solutions. Instead, it is limited to what its author deems politically achievable. This above all includes incremental steps towards observing human rights at national level, especially in Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and in export promoting via Export Credit Agencies (ECAs). Ruggie is in favour of strengthening judicial capacities to hear complaints and enforce remedies against corporations. He recommends the corporations themselves to observe due diligence regarding respect for human rights and gives some practical recommendations in this context.

However, Ruggie categorically rejects the UN Norms or any other global legal instrument to establish the human rights duties of corporations. Neither does the report address calls by human rights organisations for a UN special procedure (e.g., independent expert or group of experts) on business and human rights or a proposed International Advisory Centre offering governments of developing countries legal support vis-à-vis transnational corporations. Thus Ruggies report, Martens concludes, falls way short of the expectations of civil society organisations. With his principled pragmatism approach, Ruggie formulates what he feels is politically feasible given the forces that be in society but does not state what would be desirable and necessary to protect human rights.

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