Decent Work in Global Supply Chains

Unit 5, Lecture 2 - UN Guiding Principles

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UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporation – in 2003 attempt to creative legally binding human rights obligations which was opposed by business and some government. Never adopted.

UN Guiding Principles (UNGP) – set of 31 principles endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. Provide important authoritative guidance but do not provide for sanctions or enforcement mechanisms. The principles are based on 3 pillars:

  • State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties including business enterprises. Duty = states have to prevent, investigate and punish corporate human rights abuses → through policies, legislation, regulation and adjudication
    o states should “clarify their expectation” of respect for human rights
    o can use this pillar to regulate TNCs’ responsibility to respect human rights throughout their business operations, to establish binding obligations on corporate reporting on the human rights impact.

  • Corporate Responsibility to respect human rights – corporations have the responsibility to respect all internationally recognized human rights throughout the whole network of global supply chains and business relationships
    o Companies can cause / contribute / or be directly linked to human rights violations

  • Access to remedy for victims of corporate human rights violations
    o Compensation or punitive sanctions

These three pillars are often referred to as “the Ruggie Framework” or more formally as the “UN Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework for Business and Human Rights”.

The UN Framework and the Guiding Principles constitute the most significant developments in over 30 years with respect to international standards of behavior for business.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises – 1976
International Labor Organization’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy – 1977

The Guiding Principles do not come with a UN mechanism to consider questions over their meaning, to handle grievances against specific companies, to resolve disputes or to investigate charges of corporate wrong-doing.

Companies under the UNGPs must develop a clear policy statement to express their commitment to respect human rights Has to identify and asses human rights risk and prevent and mitigate human rights violations.

6 elements that make UNGPs valuable
- distinction between role of state and role of business
o Governments are not permitted to avoid obligations by transferring them to businesses or arguing that business is “too powerful”. It is a State’s obligation under international law to promote against human rights abuses.
- clarifies responsibilities of business
o businesses cannot avoid their responsibilities to rights-holders because a government fails in its duty to protect. Business should respect human rights (i.e. avoid infringing on human rights and should address adverse human rights impacts in which they are involved)
o in this framework more important for businesses to respect human rights rather than promote human rights
- scope of business responsibility including the supply chain
- due diligence as the new expectation of business behavior
- importance of remedy
- foundation for more development

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