The UN 'Norms on the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights': A Requiem

Pini Pavel Miretski, Sascha-Dominik Bachmann

Abstract


On 11 June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the ‘Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights’ as a new set of guiding principles for global business designed to provide a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. This outcome was preceded by an earlier unsuccessful attempt by a Sub-Commission of the UN Commission on Human Rights to win approval for a set of binding corporate human rights norms, the so called ‘Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights’. This article identifies and discusses the reasons why the Norms eventually failed to win approval by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. This discussion assists an understanding of the difficulties in establishing binding ‘hard law’ obligations for transnational corporations with regard to human rights within the wider framework of international law. It elucidates the possible motives as well as the underlying rationale which led first to the adoption and then the rapid abandoning of the Norms. The discussion also sheds light on the future of the voluntarism of business human rights compliance, on the likelihood of finding alternative solutions, and finally on the rationale for, and effect of, the ‘Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights’.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21153/dlr2012vol17no1art68

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