Exploring the Roles Corporate and Securities Law Can Play in Encouraging Corporations to Respect Human Rights

by John Ruggie, for The Harvard Law School Forum at Harvard Law School, Febraury 10, 2010.

Recently York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto convened an expert meeting in support of the Corporate Law Tools Project of my UN mandate, titled “Corporate Law and Human Rights: Opportunities and Challenges of Using Corporate Law to Encourage Corporations to Respect Human Rights.” The consultation was also supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and further assistance was provided by Export Development Canada and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

I was appointed in 2005 by then UN Secretary‐General Kofi Annan, pursuant to a broad mandate adopted by the then UN Commission on Human Rights, to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability regarding human rights, including the role of states. In June 2008, after extensive global consultation with business, governments and civil society, I proposed a policy framework to the UN Human Rights Council (Council) for better managing business and human rights challenges. The Council was unanimous in welcoming the framework.

The UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework rests on three differentiated yet complementary 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 in essence means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and greater access for victims to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial…(continue reading)

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