UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles), endorsed by the United Nation (UN) Human Rights Council on June 16, 2011 with strong U.S. government support, are the first global set of guidelines on business and human rights. The Guiding Principles provide an important framework for corporations, states, civil society and others as they work to strengthen their respective approaches to the issue of business and human rights.

Developed by former UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on business and human rights, John Ruggie, the principles highlight steps States can take to encourage business respect for human rights; provide a blueprint for companies to demonstrate respect for human rights and minimize the risk of harm to people; and constitute a set of benchmarks for stakeholders to assess business respect for human rights. The principles are organized under a three-pillar framework:

  • Protect: States have a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business enterprises, through appropriate policies, regulations, and adjudication.
  • Respect: Businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, including acting with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others, and addressing adverse impacts with which they are involved.
  • Remedy: There is a need for greater access to remedy for victims of business-related abuse, both judicial and non-judicial.

The Guiding Principles have already been reflected in several sets of international guidelines and endorsed by international and domestic groups, including:

  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
  • International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) sustainability framework
  • American Bar Association

U.S. Government and the Guiding Principles

The Business and Human Rights (BHR) team in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor leads U.S. government efforts to implement the Guiding Principles. The BHR team:

  • Works with the UN Working Group on business and human rights, that was established upon UN Human Rights Council endorsement of the Guiding Principles;
  • Funds programs that foster implementation of the Guiding Principles through the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund;
  • Facilitates conversation with businesses, civil society, and governments about implementation of the Guiding Principles; and
  • Advocates for integration of the Guiding Principles into existing guidelines and performance management efforts.

Full text of the Guiding Principles is available at: http://www.business-humanrights.org/media/documents/ruggie/ruggie-guiding-principles-21-mar-2011.pdf

The U.S. statement upon endorsement of the Guiding Principles is available at:

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