Saturday, December 18, 2010

Who are the world’s top 100 global thinkers?

Foreign Policy (FP) magazine’s December issue publishes its list of the world’s top 100 global thinkers for 2010. It honors President Obama as No. 3 “for charting a course through criticism.”

I for one would not rate Mr. Obama quite that high in what FP calls “this very smart crowd.” He lacks the necessary policy understanding of the 21st century global economy, as seems clear from his wobbly course on global trade and investment issues.

Missing from the FP list is a bold thinker and quiet doer, John Ruggie, a professor whom a 2005 FP survey called one of the most influential academics in the field of international relations. Since 2005, his main occupation has been as UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. During three years of work, he developed a new “Framework” on the duty of the State to protect against human rights abuses, on the Corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and on the need to provide remedies for violations – all toward better managing 21st century business and human rights challenges.

As a self-styled “principled pragmatist,” Ruggie establishes a “foundational principle” that corporate responsibility includes respecting the ILO’s eight core conventions,” but doesn’t leave it there. That commitment, he adds, belongs in the corporation’s own human rights policy statement to show it is exercising human rights “due diligence” in-house but also in relationships with partners, suppliers, and other entities.

In 2008 the Human Rights Council unanimously approved that “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework. But how apply its principles in a world of 192 UN member states, 80,000 multinational enterprises, 800,000 subsidiaries, and countless millions of national firms, most of which are small and medium-sized enterprises.

Ruggie has now posted a 27-page-long set of Guiding Principles for implementing the framework. To gather feedback, he has created a special website,, which remains open until January 31. After that, the document will undergo final editing and translating in time for the June meeting of the Human Rights Council.

Wide acceptance of the new paradigm would mean a historic change in the culture of globalization. Just reading a brief summary like this one will not convert skeptics. A careful reading of the Framework and key supporting documents, however. will be instructive even to those who already support what constitutes the beginning of a social movement.
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