Human Rights and Corporate Wrongs
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Human Rights and Corporate Wrongs

Closing the Governance Gap

Simon Baughen

The effects of globalisation, together with the increase in foreign investment and resource development within the developing world, have created a context for human rights abuses by States in which transnational corporations are complicit. This timely book considers how these ‘governance gaps’, as identified by Professor John Ruggie, may be closed. Simon Baughen examines the status of corporations under international law, the civil liability of corporations for their participation in international crimes and self-regulation through voluntary codes of conduct, such as the 2011 UN Guiding Principles.
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Chapter 8: Voluntary codes and the UN Guiding Principles

Simon Baughen


Paralleling, and perhaps not unconnected with, the development of home State litigation the last 15 years have seen the corporate embrace of the corporate social responsibility agenda, with corporations adopting human rights policies and triple bottom line reporting policies. A series of voluntary initiatives have emerged for corporations to sign up to, particularly in the problematic extractive sector. This so-called ‘soft law’ approach has an obvious appeal to corporations as it entails no legal commitment. This is TNCs doing it for themselves. In 2011 this voluntary approach culminated with the endorsement in June 2011 of John Ruggie’s ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework’ by the UN Human Rights. On 31 January 1999 in a speech in Davos, Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched a call for business leaders to combine with the UN to initiate a global compact whereby business would embrace, support and enact a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, and environmental practices. The Global Compact, a global CSR initiative based on voluntary business membership, was officially launched in a meeting in New York in July 2000. Its initial membership comprised businesses plus representatives from UN agencies, NGOs and trade unions. The Global Compact initially contained nine principles, which became ten in 2004. To join the Global Compact a company must indicate its continuing support for these principles and its intention to implement them.

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