Human Rights|International|systems design

ADR and Human Rights: The Saga Continues

Readers of this blog will remember my interest in the work of Prof. John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations.  His work continues, richer and even more provocative.

In April 2008, Prof. Ruggie published a Report that proposed three “pillars” of analysis of the nexus between Corporate Social Responsibility and human rights: (1) the state’s responsibility to protect human rights; (2) the corporation’s responsibility to respect human rights; and (3) the need for “rights-compatible” mechanisms available to those who are aggrieved by violations of human rights. As to the third, mediation and dialogue rather than adjudication were strongly preferred.

Since that time, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s website has posted human rights allegations about business operations in more than 180 countries; the site gets more that 1,500,000 hits per month!

Also, in collaboration with the International Bar Association and with the support of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the World Bank Group and JAMS Foundation, the Special Representative has initiated BASESwiki, an interactive online forum for sharing, accessing and discussing information about non-judicial mechanisms that address disputes between companies and their external stakeholders.  (I am honored to serve on the Advisory Group for the wiki.)

Other work has also continued, including consultations with industry-specific groups about global approaches to “best practices” of community behavior by businesses.

All these developments and more are included in John Ruggie’s most recent report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in April 2009.  In it, Prof. Ruggie reports on the first year of his three-year mandate to “operationalize” the analytical framework set forth in the first report.  It is particularly gratifying to note that national and international governments, global business entities, and other organizations have endorsed, noted, or used the first report as a baseline upon which to hold discussions leading to recognition of the validity of the “three-pillar” framework.

Many mediators and attorneys join me in finding this kind of work particularly gratifying; Mediators Beyond Borders is organization commited to dispute prevention and resolution on a global scale, as is the American Friends Service Committee.  But for those who, like me, are specially concerned with corporate rights to develop, as they intersect with individual and community rights to live and grow, I encourage you to read the recent Report, visit and contribute information to BASESwiki, and bookmark the web site.  

These are compelling ideas in a fluid time, and we should keep ourselves abreast.  As Prof. Ruggie notes in the conclusion of his most recent report: “Business and human rights is not an ephemeral issue to be considered at some future date.  It is an must remain at the core of our common concerns today.

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