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Relevant features of the elaboration of the UNGPs

The work of John Ruggie on the Framework and the UNGPs has been closely scrutinized by all actors and abundantly commented on by scholars.49 The UNGPs are a typical case of expert-driven soft law. They build on extensive work by Professor John Ruggie and his team during his mandate as Special Representative of the Secretary General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (2005—11). A lot of Ruggie’s work is based on surveys that seek to identify whether the practice of human rights and business fits with more theoretical and scholarly views on the application of international human rights law to business. This relates, for example, to the responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights, or to the extraterritorial application of human rights to the activities of business enterprises operating outside the home state.50 The results of this research and analysis have been submitted to several rounds of consultation at the international, regional, and national levels with all stakeholders: relevant state organs, national human rights institutions, multinational and national private corporations, civil society, and human rights experts and scholars.

As far as international law-making is concerned, it is common for civil society, national human rights institutions, and experts to be consulted by UN institutions as well as other international and regional organizations. Private actors, such as [1] [2] [3]

business enterprises, on the other hand, are not usually involved in such processes for elaborating human rights standards. In the case of the UNGPs on business and human rights, carrying out broad consultation was part of the mandate originally given to the SRSG by the Human Rights Commission in 200551 and became the core element of his methodology.52 Ruggie needed to get the support of traditional actors in international human rights law-making (states, NHRI, international NGO networks, human rights experts, etc.) to achieve endorsement at the level of the HRC. He also needed to involve some of the future addressees of the UNGPs via consultation with private corporations, employer organizations, chambers of commerce, trade unions, and practitioners working with private corporations.

The combination of targeted surveys and broad multi-stakeholder consultations had the benefit of disseminating information on the guiding principles prior to their endorsement by the HRC. This helped to build some form of consensus among all stakeholders (state, business enterprises, and civil society) regarding the existence and contents of the UNGPs, and guide the SRSG in identifying and making strategic choices for the drafting of the final document. This process does not negate the fact that half the principles contained in the UNGPs establish standards for addressees who did not participate in their formal adoption.

  • [1] K. Buhmann, ‘The Development of the ‘UN Framework’: A Pragmatic Process Towards aPragmatic Output’, in Mares (2012): 85—105 at 86.
  • [2] See inter alia two previously cited anthologies: Mares (2012) and Deva and Bilchitz (2013).
  • [3] See e.g.: Survey of Scope and Patterns of Alleged Corporate-Related Human Rights Abuse, Addendumto the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the issue of human rightsand transnational corporations and other business enterprises, 23 May 2008 (A/HRC/8/5/Add.2) orCorporate Responsibility under International Law and Issues in Extraterritorial Regulation: Summary ofLegal Workshops, Addendum 2 to the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General onthe issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, 9 Feb. 2007(A/HRC/4/35/Add.2).
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