The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights


On the 17th of June 2011, the Council of Human Rights of the United Nations adopted "the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights." This unanimous adoption is deservedly regarded as a major event for the protection of human rights and the evolution of the concept of CSR.

It took 18 years to get to this result; the idea that it was necessary to lead the major players in the economic and social field, the companies, to engage in the service of human rights respect was launched during the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights of 1993,

Several attempts have succeeded, assigned to rapporteurs and ad hoc committees. In 1999, the Secretary-General of the United Nations launched the Global Compact, in which 4 principles out of the 10 deal with human rights. Then the Sub-Committee on Human Rights of the United Nations has attempted to develop a treaty on the subject that States have refused to consider within the Commission on Human Rights in 2004. The Council of Human Rights -new name of the Commission- mandated in June 2005 a "Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for human rights, transnational corporations and other enterprises", Professor John Ruggie, an academic known for his participation in the development of the Global Compact.

After his initial mandate of three years, the Council adopted in June 2008 a "conceptual framework and principles of action to anchor the debate on business and human rights." It focuses on three fundamental principles:
the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including businesses;
the corporate responsibility to respect human rights;
greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial.

After many consultations with international agencies involved in the construction of other standards (ISO, OECD, World Bank, European Union), a consensus involving employers, employees and human rights defenders organizations was built, leading to the unanimous adoption by the Council of human Rights in June 2011, of the Guiding Principles on business and human Rights. They are organized in three pillars deducted from the framework developed in 2008: "protect, respect, remedy".

The main contributions of these Guidelines are:

1. The affirmation of the central role of the State in the protection and promotion of human rights towards companies;

2. The priority given to the risk-based approach;

3. Responsibility extended to the value chain

4. Written and mandatory International Law on Human Rights and Labour is considered as a reference.

Updated on: 04.12.12