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Background

The preceding project "Human Rights, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development" was a research endeavor conducted by the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Within the project, businesses were supported in the fulfillment of their human rights responsibility and further integrated into processes of sustainable development. The project was divided into two segments. In the first phase of the project, three sub-projects covered the interdependent levels of international law, voluntary corporate responsibility for human rights, and state regulation in their different roles during processes of norm creation and enforcement. During the second phase of the project, the focus rested on the different structural contexts in which the corporate responsibility for human rights is embedded. These contexts can be classified into transnational, international and regional/national/local spaces, all of which define and influence each other mutually. On the foundation of this integrated approach, policy recommendations were developed.
 

The above mentioned project revealed the dynamic developments within the discourse on business and human rights for the political goals of sustainable development and the international protection of human rights. Simultaneously, this dynamic illustrates that further research is required to ensure that German development cooperation utilizes the innovative potential of this discourse. From this context derives the new project "Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights".

 

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The foundation of the new project are the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The UN Guiding Principles were developed under the leadership of Professor John Ruggie, who in 2005 was appointed UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The final report of the first mandate (2005-2008), titled „Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights", identifies three pillars as the basis of the human rights responsibility for business conduct: (1) The duty of states to protect human rights (Protect), (2) the responsibility of business to respect human rights in their sphere of influence (Respect), and (3) access to complaint mechanisms on both state and corporate level (Remedy).

 

After the completion of his first mandate, Prof. Ruggie received a second mandate by the UN Human Rights Council for a time period of three years, with the goal to operationalize the spheres of action identified in the first report. The result of this work are the UN Guiding Principles endorsed in 2011. The Guiding Principles unite norms of international law in a comprehensive and coherent model and identify courses of action to fill regulatory gaps. They build upon the "Protect, Respect and Remedy-Framework", and substantiate each pillar through fundamental and operative guiding principles. Since their adoption, the UN Guiding Principles define the international developments in the area of business and human rights to a large degree. This is illustrated by the fact that a separate chapter on human rights has been included in the revised version of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which furthermore adopted the language of the UN Guiding Principles. More detailed information on the UN Guiding Principles can be found here.