Thursday, June 02, 2011

Business, labor embrace UN human rights program

In time for the UN Human Rights Council meeting in June, the world’s leaving union and business organizations have given their endorsements to UN guiding principles for universalizing human rights in the global marketplace.

The guiding principles are the fruition of six years of work by Professor John Ruggie as Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on business and human rights. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) praised the result in a letter May 27 from Sharon Burrow, general secretary. Three business groups – the International Organization of Employers, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the OECD Business and Industry Advisory Committee – expressed their approval in a joint statement on May 30.

All the organizations renewed praise for the Ruggie-devised Framework that the Council adopted two years ago. Ms. Burrow wrote: “An early effect of the powerful set of ideas in the Framework is the recently adopted revision Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.”

“The powerful set of ideas” didn’t look so powerful a few years ago. In their original, mandatory form, they were almost buried in 2004. Its supporters, including me, assumed that countries would, on the international level, adopt measures they wouldn’t consider on the national level.

Ruggie went to work discovering – and shaping – what those countries were ready for. He did so by consulting not just governments but a wide range of stakeholders, including business. For one example of a recent meeting with business, see the issue of this blog dated March 4, 2010, at
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