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International Documents on Corporate Responsibility

Edited by Stephen Tully

International Documents on Corporate Responsibility includes the principal international, regional and national instruments drafted by intergovernmental organisations or states as well as codes of conduct formulated by industry associations, trade unions and non-governmental organisations. The coverage includes the fields of human rights, international criminal and environmental law, labour standards, international trade, armed conflict, sustainable development, corruption, consumer protection and corporate governance. Each document is accompanied by a brief explanatory commentary outlining the historical origins of the instrument, the principal actors involved, controversial negotiation issues, applicable implementation procedure, and identifies further reference material.
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Chapter 13: UN: Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, 2003


Commentary: In 1998 the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights began assessing commercial impacts upon human rights through a Working Group on the Working Methods and Activities of TNCs: SubCommission Resolution 1998/8. Since it was considered ‘appropriate to examine all these questions in a broader framework’ (UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/1998/6: para 28), consideration was given to formulating a ‘new comprehensive set of rules’ representing expected standards of corporate behaviour (UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/12: para 74). All interested constituencies including business were invited to participate: UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/1999/9: paras 5, 37. Individual firms and corporate coalitions were prepared to contribute to an authoritative set of principles if this would ‘establish a level playing field for business competition’ (UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/2002/ WG.2/WP.1/Add.1: paras 16, 60). Differences of view arose with respect to the scope of application, legal nature, title, purpose and manner of implementation: UN Docs E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/WG.2/WP.1/Add.3 (2001) and E/CN.4/Sub.2/2002/13. The resulting Norms (UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/12/Rev.2 (2003)) draw upon ILO Conventions, human rights treaties and intergovernmental guidelines as well as industry or commodity group initiatives, framework agreements between multinationals and workers’ organisations, self-imposed corporate codes and model guidelines from both NGOs and trade unions: UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/ WG.2/WP.1/Add.2 (2001). They were approved by the Sub-Commission through Resolution 2003/16: UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/L.11; see further, The Norms seek to identify contemporary expectations, rationalise existing standards and enable the integration of human rights principles into commercial decisionmaking: see further, Commentary, UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/38/Rev.2. The UN Human Rights Commission affirmed that the Norms...

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