State, Business and Human Rights

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

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The special representative to the UN for business and human rights are looking into the guiding principles that will make out the framework for “Protect, Respect and Protect”. The framework is seen as a guide for business and society on how to work with human rights in a business context. I have read the documents and find the approach very useful especially in the complex relationship between business and state.

The Guiding Principles are grounded in recognition of:

a.    States’ primary role in promoting and protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including with regard to the operations of business enterprises;

b.    The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and meet the societal expectation to not infringe on the human rights of others;

c.    The reality that rights and obligations have little meaning unless they are matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.

These Guiding Principles should be understood as a coherent whole and should be read, individually and collectively, in terms of their objective of enhancing standards and practices with regard to business and human rights so as to achieve tangible results for affected individuals and communities, and to support the social sustainability of business enterprises and markets.

I find this quote to really put the finger on the central issue.

“The idea of human rights is as simple as it is powerful: treating people with dignity. But the Special Representative soon found that there is no single silver bullet solution to the multi-faceted challenges of business and human rights. A successful strategy must identify the ways whereby all relevant actors can and must learn to do many things differently. This requires operational and cultural changes in and among governments as well as business enterprises—to create more effective combinations of existing competencies as well as devising new ones. The aim must be to shift from institutional misalignments onto a socially sustainable path.”

You can find out more here.


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