John Ruggie Named an Ethical Leader of 2008

December 8, 2008

Originally published in Ethical Corporation

John Ruggie - UN special representative for business and human rights

For getting the business and human rights agenda back on track

This year John Ruggie completed the first part of his gargantuan task of defining the way business should think about human rights.

The UN Human Rights Council in June unanimously endorsed his “protect, respect and remedy” framework for understanding the duties of states and companies on human rights. It gave Ruggie another three-year mandate to develop concrete guidance for states and business on the issue.

The significance of this development cannot be overstated. Four years ago, the idea that there would be a generally agreed framework on business and human rights seemed ludicrous. In 2004, the UN rejected the NGO-driven “Norms”, which wanted to make companies as responsible as states for protecting human rights. “Things were left in limbo,” says Ruggie. “Now they’re back on track.”

Business supports Ruggie’s work and campaigners are slowly coming on board. Amnesty International said in July it supports the framework, which outlines the state duty to protect and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need for victims of human rights abuses to have access to remedies.

Ruggie has gathered a star-studded advisory board, led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, to raise the profile of his work. He hopes to start working with companies, probably in the extractive sector, to pilot ways of making it easier for victims to seek redress. And he is working with law firms to understand how corporate law might be used to promote human rights.

Even so, Ruggie admits the second phase of his mandate could be even tougher than the first. He says: “In the end it will require some special effort to make it clear what it’s all about.”

For the full Ethical Leaders of 2008 list, visit the Ethical Corporation Web site

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John Ruggie

John Ruggie named an Ethical Leader of 2008