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Check Against Delivery

Remarks by SRSG John Ruggie “The ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework: Implications for the ILO” International Labour Conference Geneva, 3 June 2010

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my UN mandate on business and human rights with you. The ILO is the last organization in the world to require an introduction to this subject, having been at the forefront of dealing with workers’ rights since 1919, and with the Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy anticipating so many subsequent normative developments. Indeed, on matters of workers rights I have simply referenced the ILO from the start.

My mandate deals with the systemic challenge of fostering human rights- respecting corporate cultures and practices, and the need for effective remedy where harm occurs, concerning not only the work-place but also communities and society at large.

Permit me to outline the mandate briefly, and then elaborate on two of its core features that may be of particular interest to you: human rights due diligence and company-level grievance mechanisms, both serving the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.


As some of you may recall, my mandate had its origins in the divisive debate generated by the draft Norms on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, presented to the then UN Commission on Human Rights in 2004 by a subsidiary body. This sought to impose on companies, directly under international law, essentially the same range of human rights duties that States have adopted for themselves—to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights.

The business community, and many international workers’ organizations, were opposed to the draft Norms; human rights advocacy groups strongly in favor. After considering the issue for a year, the Commission declined to adopt the text, declaring that it had no legal status and that no action should be taken on its basis. Instead, in 2005 the Commission requested the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on the issue of business and human rights, with the goal of moving beyond the stalemate.

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