The state-based system of global governance has struggled for more than a generation to adjust to the expanding reach and growing influence of transnational corporations, the most visible embodiment of globalization. This paper reviews two recent chapters in this endeavor, focused specifically on human rights: the “Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights,” adopted by the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights but not by its parent body, the UN Human Rights Commission (since replaced by the Human Rights Council); and the author’s subsequent UN mandate as Special Representative of the Secretary-General “on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.” The paper analyzes key conceptual flaws of the draft Norms, noting the pitfalls of imposing on corporations, directly under international law, the same range of human rights duties that states have; it presents an empirical mapping of current international standards and practices regarding business and human rights, ranging from the most deeply rooted international legal obligations to voluntary initiatives; and it proposes a strategy for building on existing momentum in order to reduce human rights protection gaps in relation to corporate activities.


Ruggie, John Gerard. "Business and Human Rights: The Evolving International Agenda." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP07-029, June 2007.