Background on the Norms on the responsibilities of TNCs and HR

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ERI has participated in the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group which recently assembled a series of case studies on the extractive industry, highlighting patterns of violations and gaps in the protection of human rights. This report relies on the contributions and input of many committed human rights advocates, representing over twenty different organizations. Written in consultation with unions, business and NGOs, the Norms were adopted by the Sub-Commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in August 2003.1 EarthRights International (ERI) has actively supported the Norms, as the first comprehensive, international statement of the human rights responsibilities of companies. The Norms represent an important step forward, providing a common and comprehensive international statement of the human rights responsibilities of companies. While recognizing the primary role of States in guaranteeing human rights, the Norms identify the key human rights responsibilities of companies (Article 1). In doing so, the Norms create an important advocacy tool for NGOs, assist government efforts to establish compatible and socially beneficial regulatory regimes across national boundaries, and can be used as a benchmark for corporate conduct, helping corporations to improve their human rights performance. This common, minimum standard will create a level-playing field for all companies, while leaving ample scope for the more enlightened and progressive companies to adopt higher standards.

At its 60th session, the Commission on Human Rights requested the High Commissioner:

“to compile a report setting out the scope and legal status of existing initiatives and standards relating to the responsibility of transnational corporations and related business enterprises with regard to human rights, inter alia, the draft norms contained in document E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/12/Rev.2 and identifying outstanding issues.”

The Commission requested OHCHR to consult with a wide range of actors, including business, inter-governmental organizations, civil society and others.

In February 2005, the High Commissioner on Human Rights submitted a report on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and related business enterprises with regard to human rights.2 At the end of the 61st session, of the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission requested that the Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative on Transnational Corporations.3  The mandate for the SRSG called on the SRSG, inter alia:

(a)To identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability for transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights;

(b)To elaborate on the role of States in effectively regulating and adjudicating the role of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights, including through international cooperation;

(c)To research and clarify the implications for transnational corporations and other business enterprises of concepts such as “complicity” and “sphere of influence”;

(d)To develop materials and methodologies for undertaking human rights impact assessments of the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises;

(e)To compile a compendium of best practices of States and transnational corporations and other business enterprises;

In July 2005, John Ruggie was appointed the SRSG on business and human rights.4

ERI has participated in the ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group which recently assembled a series of case studies on the extractive industry, highlighting patterns of violations and gaps in the protection of human rights. This report relies on the contributions and input of many committed human rights advocates, representing over twenty different organizations.  This Joint NGO Report includes suggested Next Steps for the SRSG on Human Rights and Business (SRSG), Professor John Ruggie. A draft of the Joint NGO Submission was circulated at the UN Consultation on Human Rights and the Extractive Industry in Geneva, 10-11 November 2005, and the final version was given to Professor Ruggie at a consultation with NGOs in London, on 9 December. 5

ERI also submitted a separate report to John Ruggie on earth rights abuses by corporations in Burma.6

ERI plans to submit another report to the SRSG on the standard of aiding and abetting which applies to corporations, based on the cases and amicus briefs which ERI has submitted.7 Finally, ERI will attend the 62nd session of the commission on human rights in Geneva in March and April, 2006 at which we will present all of our reports.

Resources:

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/globalization/business/reportbusiness.htm

Global Compact

ILO Tripartite

SRSG’s statements: http://209.238.219.111/UN-Special-Representative-public-materials.htm)

Endnotes: 

[1] http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/E.CN.4.Sub.2.2003.12.Rev.2.En?Opendocument

[2] http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G05/110/27/PDF/G0511027.pdf?OpenElement

[3] http://209.238.219.111/UN-Commission-resolution-business-human-rights-Apr-2005.doc

[4] http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2005/sga934.doc.htm

[5] http://earthrights.org/docs/escrnet9_dec_05.pdf

[6] http://earthrights.org/docs/eri_submission.pdf

[7] See (c) of the Special Representatives mandate.

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