Global governance

What is the importance of the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights?

  • 15 June 2021

Ahead of the 2019 United Nations (UN) Business and Human Rights Forum, ICC is reaffirming its longstanding commitment to the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

At this year’s UN Business and Human Rights Forum in Geneva on 25-27 November, ICC will join participants from government, business and civil society to establish a constructive approach for advancing human rights. Despite calls for a treaty-based approach, ICC remains convinced that the UNGPs are the best way forward in advancing shared government and business responsibilities to protect human rights.

What are the UN Guiding Principles?

In 2008, UN Special Representative John Ruggie proposed a framework to the UN Human Rights Council to address the fundamental relationship between business activities and human rights. The Ruggie Framework outlined an all-encompassing, three-pillar approach to business and human rights, including a state duty to protect, a corporate responsibility to protect and access to effective remedy. The UN Human Rights Council unanimously approved the Ruggie Framework and subsequently endorsed the formalised the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in 2011.

ICC’s early support for the UN Guiding Principles

ICC has fully welcomed the Ruggie Framework since its introduction, as an effective blueprint for implementing appropriate policies to respect human rights. As early as December 2008, ICC issued a policy statement in support of the Ruggie Framework, which stated: “ICC, together with other business associations, now looks forward to contribute input to the new phase of Professor Ruggie’s mandate, which will examine ways to operationalize his proposed policy framework.”

ICC’s support for this constructive approach to advancing human rights was further echoed in 2011 when the framework became operationalised as the UNGPs. At the time, ICC stated: “We believe that these Principles will be useful to all actors – business, governments and other stakeholders – in order to implement measures to address human rights issues effectively.”

Advancing the UN Guiding Principles today

Eight years on from the adoption of the UNGPs, ICC remains fully convinced that they offer a transformational roadmap to a future where humans and businesses can thrive and prosper. ICC continues to actively engage companies worldwide to scale up their implementation of the UNGPs, including through the issuance of accessible training resources and toolkits for SMEs.

Nevertheless, ICC remains concerned that only 23 countries have implemented National Human Rights Action Plans (NAPs) with Thailand becoming the most recent in October 2019. Consistent with the Ruggie Framework’s three-pronged approach, ICC calls upon national governments to heighten their efforts to develop and implement national action plans.

Crispin Conroy, ICC’s Permanent Observer to the UN in Geneva, who will participate in this year’s forum said: “In order for businesses to continue their efforts to protect human rights, national governments need to engage the private sector in developing, publishing, and implementing their national action plans.”

“We look forward to working constructively with national governments at this year’s forum to heighten their commitments to the UNGuiding Principles.”

On 25 November, Viviane Schiavi, Deputy Director for ICC Green and Inclusive Growth, will speak during a session organised by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the business and human rights dimension of corruption. The session will examine how governments and business can work together to scale up anti-corruption efforts in the context of human rights, as part of their obligations under the UNGPs.

Read more about ICC’s engagement with business and human rights.