Negotiating a treaty on business and human rights: The early stages

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The idea of subjecting corporations to some sort of international obligation, particularly in the field of human rights, is not new; different processes and ways of doing this have been debated since the 1970s, when a proposed all-encompassing Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations was pushed through the ranks of the United Nations ('UN') Commission on Transnational Corporations. Failure to adopt such a proposal in the early 1990s due to a changing international economic and political landscape and the necessity to attract foreign direct investment by developing countries redirected attention on this issue to a subsidiary organ of the Commission on Human Rights, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, which by 2003 had submitted a proposal to adopt the 'Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights'. This project was met with fierce opposition by states and the international business community, thus being put to rest by the Commission on Human Rights in 2004. Yet, the issue of corporate impact on human rights was not interred then and there: instead, the project was taken on by Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, who between 2005 and 2011 produced numerous reports, including the now (relatively) widely known 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (hereinafter 'UNGPs' or 'Guiding Principles').
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1200-1222
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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