UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

10 July 2013 - The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN doc A/HRC/17/31) represent some of the most important internationally recognized standards on corporate responsibility for human rights. The unanimous endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles by the Human Rights Council is an important step towards increasing corporations’ obligations regarding human rights. ECCHR followed this development very closely and is now focusing on ensuring the effective implementation of the guidelines.
 
ECCHR had previously expressed its dissatisfaction with the first draft of the Guiding Principles. We are now focusing on establishing how the guidelines can be used and developed in order to benefit those affected by corporate injustice. Together with our partners from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, German Watch and Misereor, we organized an international conference in November 2011 on the future of the UN Guidelines with representatives from politics, business, academia and civil society. In various reports, we also examine what standards the UN guidelines apply to corporations producing highly toxic pesticides, and how the guidelines can be used to interpret existing corporate due diligence obligations.
 
The UN Guiding Principles implement the UN “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework and stipulate that the primary obligation for actively protecting human rights lies with states. Under this framework, corporations are obliged to respect human rights. The Guiding Principles provide a detailed description of corporations’ duty to regularly undertake human rights risk assessments of all aspects of their activities. Where these assessments reveal the risk or existence of human rights violations occurring in the course of their business, the corporation is obliged to provide a remedy and to avoid the risk of such a violation occurring or to bring the violation to an end.  The third pillar of the UN framework and guidelines relates to the legal means open to those affected by corporate human rights violations in order to assert their rights and receive compensation. It is the duty of states, in particular, to ensure access to appropriate judicial or non-judicial complaint and compensation mechanisms.