BOOK CLUB: I started this blog because I’m studying a Master of Laws, and one of my main areas of interest is business and human rights. Currently, we don’t have a binding framework for enforcing human rights obligations on corporations, and I’m currently researching how social media can be used as a tool for consumers to hold business enterprises to account for their human rights practice in operation and governance, where law does not exist to do so.
As State sovereignty is increasingly diluted in a rapidly globalising world—one where global supply chains mean that policing business practice in the field of human rights can be complex or impossible under domestic law—I believe holding business to account for human rights is essential. Moreover, when huge corporations start to act like States, influencing policy, culture, development, and State power, the impact of corporate practice on human rights can no longer continue to go unchecked.
As far as expectation-setting for business and human rights, the UN’s Guiding Principles (GPs), created under the leadership of John Ruggie (the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Business and Human Rights), are a solid starting point. The GPs are based on the methodology of ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’—that is, States have a duty to protect human rights, business enterprises have a (non-justiciable) duty to respect human rights, and both have a duty to provide remedy where adverse human rights impacts have occurred.
Ruggie’s book, ‘Just Business’ is a great introduction to the GPs and the background of business and human rights discourse. Before you get put off by thoughts of homework, dense reading, and brain cramps: the book is written in a conversational and uncomplicated tone, without the cumbersome legalese you might be imagining. And it’s not that long either, a solid Sunday afternoon’s reading. If you’re interested in learning more about business and human rights, I’d suggest this as a good starting point.
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