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Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises


About the mandate

In 2005 the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution E/CN.4/RES/2005/69 requesting the “Secretary-General to appoint a special representative on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises” (SRSG) for two years. This resolution mandated the SRSG to, among other tasks, identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability with regard to human rights.

In 2007, the Human Rights Council renewed the mandate in resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1 for an additional year. Under these mandates, the SRSG proposed the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework to address business involvement in human rights abuse.

In 2008, the Human Rights Council unanimously welcomed and recognized the need to operationalize this framework, and renewed the SRSG's mandate for three years in resolution A/HRC/RES/8/7. The result of this mandate was the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), providing – for the first time – a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights involving business activity.

In A/HRC/RES/17/4, the Council unanimously welcomed the work and contributions of the SRSG and endorsed the UNGPs. Following the fulfillment of the SRSG's mandate, the Council decided in the same resolution to establish a Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

All information and documents related to the SRSG's work is available on his portal on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

Mandate holder

Picture of SRSG, John Ruggie
Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

John Ruggie was the special representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises from 2005 - 2011. He is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Affiliated Professor in International Legal Studies at Harvard Law. Professor Ruggie has served the United Nations in various capacities since the 1990s. Read Professor Ruggie's profile.



Key documents

United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)

The UNGPs are the global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity, and they provide the internationally-accepted framework for enhancing standards and practices with regard to business and human rights. The Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011.

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Reports of the SRSG 

This section includes reports produced by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (SRSG) that were submitted to the Human Rights Council, General Assembly, and Commission on Human Rights during the SRSG mandate.

For reports on business and human rights by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General, please visit OHCHR’s report webpage. For reports by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, please visit the Working Group's report webpage.

Year / Body / Session

Title

Symbol number

Summary

2011
HRC 17th session

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework

A/HRC/17/31

This is the final report of the Special Representative. It summarizes his work from 2005 to 2011, and presents the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework.”

2011
HRC 17th session

Addendum: Piloting principles for effective company/stakeholder grievance mechanisms: A report of lessons learned

A/HRC/17/31/Add.1

This report sets out key lessons learned from a pilot project conducted in 2009-2010 to test the practical applicability of a set of effectiveness criteria for non-judicial grievance mechanisms.

2011
HRC 17th session

Addendum: Human rights and corporate law: trends and observations from a cross-national study conducted by the Special Representative

A/HRC/17/31/Add.2

This paper summarizes overarching trends from the Special Representative’s Corporate Law project, which was an in-depth, multi-jurisdictional exploration of the links between corporate and securities law and human rights.

2011
HRC 17th session

Addendum: Principles for responsible contracts: integrating the management of human rights risks into State-investor contract negotiations: guidance for negotiators

A/HRC/17/31/Add.3

This report presents the Principles for Responsible Contracts, which are meant to help integrate the management of human rights risks into investment project contract negotiations between host State entities and foreign business investors. These principles are the product of four years of research and inclusive, multi-stakeholder dialogue carried out under the mandate of the Special Representative.

2011
HRC 17th session

Business and human rights in conflict-affected regions: challenges and options towards State responses

A/HRC/17/32

This report outlines a range of policy options that home, host and neighboring States have, or could develop, to prevent and deter corporate-related human rights abuses in conflict contexts.

2010
GA 65th session

Human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

A/65/310

This report notes the consultative process that the Special Representative will pursue in elaborating the guiding principles, addresses some of the challenges posed by the issue of extraterritorial jurisdiction in the context of business and human rights, discusses the scope and application of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the supply chains of business enterprises, and provides an update on activities and developments related to the Special Representative’s work to promote the framework.

2010
HRC 14th session

Business and human rights: further steps toward the operationalization of the “protect, respect and remedy” framework

A/HRC/14/27

This is a progress report of the Special Representative that illustrates his working methods in operationalizing and promoting the “protect, respect and remedy” framework and provides his thinking on the three pillars and the synergies among them.

2009
GA 64th session

Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

A/64/216

This report provides developments related to the Special Representative’s work, as well as an update on key meetings and outreach activities. It also notes that the reification of the categories of voluntary and mandatory approaches to business and human rights is an impediment to innovative thinking and action.

2009
HRC 11th session

Business and human rights: Towards operationalizing the “protect, respect and remedy” framework

A/HRC/11/13

This report recapitulates the key features of the “protect, respect and remedy” framework and outlines the strategic directions of the Special Representative’s work streams to date in operationalizing the framework.

2009
HRC 11th session

Addendum: State obligations to provide access to remedy for human rights abuses by third parties, including business: an overview of international and regional provisions, commentary and decisions

A/HRC/11/13/Add.1

This report examines the scope of State obligations to provide access to remedy for third party abuse, including by business, under international and regional human rights treaties.

2008
GA 63rd session

Human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

A/63/270

This report outlines the main components of the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework and discusses the anticipated work streams to be undertaken by the Special Representative in implementing his extended mandate from the Human Rights Council.

2008
HRC 8th session

Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights

A/HRC/8/5

This report presents a conceptual and policy framework to anchor the business and human rights debate, and to help guide all relevant actors. The framework comprises three core principles: the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for more effective access to remedies. The three principles form a complementary whole in that each supports the others in achieving sustainable progress.

2008
HRC 8th session

Addendum: Summary of five multi-stakeholder consultations

A/HRC/8/5/Add.1

This addendum provides summaries of consultations that addressed the following issues: (a) the role of States in effectively regulating and adjudicating the activities of corporations with respect to human rights; (b) business and human rights in conflict zones: the role of home States; (c) the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; (d) accountability mechanisms for resolving corporate-related human rights complaints and disputes; and (e) improving the human rights performance of business through multi-stakeholder initiatives.

2008
HRC 8th session

Addendum: Corporations and human rights: a survey of the scope and patterns of alleged corporate-related human rights abuse

A/HRC/8/5/Add.2

This report summarizes the scope and patterns of alleged corporate-related human rights abuse found in a sample of 320 cases posted on the Business and Human Rights Resource Center web page from February 2005 to December 2007. An initial coding of cases showed that all industry sectors were alleged to impact human rights, and impacts were alleged to occur in all regions.

2008
HRC 8th session

Clarifying the Concepts of “Sphere of influence” and “Complicity”

A/HRC/8/16

Responding to the request in paragraph 1 (c) of Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/69 to “research and clarify the implications for transnational corporations and other business enterprises of concepts such as ‘complicity’ and ‘sphere of influence’”, this companion report to A/HRC/8/5 explains how both concepts fit into the corporate responsibility to respect rights.

2007
HRC 4th session

Business and human rights: mapping international standards of responsibility and accountability for corporate acts

A/HRC/4/35

This report responds to various elements of paragraphs 1 (a) through (c) as well as 1 (e) of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General as set out in resolution 2005/69 of the Commission on Human Rights: “to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability … with regard to human rights”; “to elaborate on the role of States in effectively regulating and adjudicating” business activities; “to research and clarify the implications … of concepts such as ‘complicity’”; and identify some prevailing if not “best” practices by States and companies. The four addenda to this report provide greater detail.

2007
HRC 4th session

Addendum: State responsibilities to regulate and adjudicate corporate activities under the United Nations core human rights treaties: an overview of treaty body commentaries

A/HRC/4/35/Add.1

This addendum outlines overall trends appearing from treaty-specific reports regarding obligations of States to regulate and adjudicate corporate activities, and makes preliminary observations as to how the treaty-based human rights machinery may be applied to further strengthen human rights protection and promotion in the context of corporate activity.

2007
HRC 4th session

Addendum: Corporate responsibility under international law and issues in extraterritorial regulation: summary of legal workshops

A/HRC/4/35/Add.2

This addendum combines the summaries of two workshops. The New York workshop considered four issues: whether corporate responsibility for human rights already exists under international law; how State human rights obligations might otherwise be translated into corporate obligations; the problem of regulating TNCs in “weak governance zones”; and the extent to which States’ duty to protect against human rights abuses by non-State actors requires them to regulate the overseas activities of TNCs. The Brussels workshop focused on three areas of inquiry: clarifying the general international law principles governing the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction by States; specific questions raised by the regulation of the extraterritorial activities of TNCs; and the provision of effective sanctions against TNCs and remedies for victims.

2007
HRC 4th session

Addendum: Human Rights Policies and Management Practices: Results from questionnaire surveys of Governments and Fortune Global 500 firms

A/HRC/4/35/Add.3

This addendum summarizes the responses to two surveys conducted by the Special Representative. One survey asked States to identify current practices of regulating, adjudicating, and otherwise influencing the role of corporations with respect to human rights. A second survey asked the Fortune Global 500 firms about their human rights policies and practices.

2007
HRC 4th session

Addendum: Business recognition of human rights: Global patterns, regional and sectoral variations

A/HRC/4/35/Add.4

This addendum summarizes the human rights standards referenced or invoked in the policies of three types of business organization: a cross-section of more than 300 companies from all regions of the world; 8 collective initiatives; and 5 socially responsible investment (SRI) indices. For each of the three types, the Special Representative looked for indicators expressing or referencing rights included in the International Bill of Human Rights. Also examined was the issue of whether the prescribed policies and practices include accountability mechanisms for companies, such as reporting requirements; whether they hold the companies’ suppliers to any human rights standards; the extent to which they stipulate corporate engagement with external stakeholders; and the human rights instruments to which companies, collective initiatives, and SRI indices refer. Finally, policies concerning bribery and corruption were examined.

2007
HRC 4th session

Human rights impact assessments - resolving key methodological questions

A/HRC/4/74

This report describes principles and characteristics of human rights impact assessments for business, including similarities to environmental and social impact assessments, and provides updates on current initiatives.

2006
CHR 62nd session

Interim report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

E/CN.4/2006/97

This interim report frames the overall context encompassing the mandate as the Special Representative sees it, outlines the general strategic approach taken, and summarizes his planned programme of activities.



Working Group on business and human rights
Recent thematic reports
Issues in focus
Contact information

Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Palais des Nations, 8-14, Avenue de la Paix. 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 917 9159
E-mail: wg-business@ohchr.org

Others Involved