Midyear Meeting

ABA House Considers Human Rights Responsibilities of Corporations


The ABA House of Delegates has supported a set of guiding principles for business and human rights after their adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The guidelines were developed for the U.N. by Harvard business professor John Ruggie. His report, Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights, identified three pillars of “protect, respect and remedy.” They are: the state’s duty to protect the human rights of its people; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for more effective access to remedies for corporate abuses.

By adopting Resolution 109, the ABA’s policy-making body has endorsed Ruggie’s report as well as a report on implementing his framework. The U.N. Human Rights Council “welcomed” Ruggie’s report in 2008 and adopted the implementation report last year.

The ABA resolution also endorses human rights provisions of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The OECD guidelines, which are voluntary, call on companies to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts and to address such impacts when they occur.

A report accompanying the ABA resolution predicts that “in time, [the U.N. framework] will contribute to greater consistency in human rights objectives among many different types of agencies and organizations.”

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