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His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva submitted a statement on the UN Guiding Principles at the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council on June 11th. The statement, titled “Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises” is excellent, calling for the need to broaden dissemination of the principles, attain scale in implementation, build trust among stakeholders and overcome barriers to effective remedy.
The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles) were endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011. The Guiding Principles provide an authoritative global standard for addressing adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity around the world.
The Guiding Principles set out, in three pillars, principles concerning the State duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and access to remedy for victims of human rights abuse.
The following gives a flavor of the statement that reflects fully the Vatican’s concern for the impact of powerful economic structures and activity on the lives of ordinary people:
“The ability of international corporations to partially escape territoriality and carve for themselves an existence “in-between” national legislation is rightly one of the concerns of the International Community. Their mobility in terms of their country of incorporation, management, production, and financial flows allows them to navigate national legislations, take advantage of regulatory arbitrage and choose the jurisdictions that may offer the best return in terms of profits. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, and other religious leaders in the International Community have repeatedly pointed out that profit cannot be the only rationale of business activity. Transnational corporations are part of the human family and as such their activity should abide by the standard of human rights.”
“Another point of concern to the International Community is the inherent complexity of the transnational corporations regarding their diverse operating models (modus operandi) which makes them very hard to monitor and supervise. The resulting absence of robust and timely transparency makes it very difficult to measure compliance with rules and legislations. Human rights violations all too often occur out of utter neglect toward consequences that would have been foreseeable had anyone cared to think about them. These sorts of “neglects” are not casual, but systemic.”
Reflections on Business and Human Rights January 1st, 2012
Read Fr. Seamus Finn’s latest Huffington Post blog on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights recently endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. The principles were developed to offer guidance for the implementation of the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework, first introduced by Special Representative John Ruggie in 2008. They provide very practical and concrete recommendations on how to operationalize the framework, which was built around the following three central pillars:
- States have a responsibility to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including corporations;
- Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights;
- Victims of human rights abuses must be free to access effective remedies.