The Protect-Respect-Remedy framework for business and human rights: the next steps |

The Protect-Respect-Remedy framework for business and human rights: the next steps

20111114_Salil_Tripathi_04_w170“A state’s right to be called a state is only justified when it protects the rights of individuals,” said Mr. Salil Tripathi at a lunchtime talk hosted by the LKY School of Public Policy on 14 November 2011. His lecture on “The Protect-Respect-Remedy Framework for Business and Human Rights” took place against the backdrop of a milestone development at the international level with endorsement of the framework for corporate entities to operate in consonance with international standards of human rights. This new paradigm not only focuses on the companies but also the role of states in enabling it to flourish. The session was moderated by Professor Mukul Asher of the LKY School. 

Tripathi, who is Director of Policy at the Institute for Human Rights and Business in London, said that until 2003 there was no solid basis for human rights responsibilities vis-à-vis business enterprises. Around the world, labour laws and constitutional guarantees to the basic rights of people existed, but Professor John Ruggie of Harvard University has worked on a theoretical strategy to extend this further. Tripathi said Ruggie’s framework rests on three pillars. The first, ‘protection’, is the obligation of states to safeguard individuals from human rights abuses by companies through effective policy/regulatory design and adjudication beyond the constitutional ambit. The second is for private institutions ‘to respect’ human rights and to act with due diligence towards it. The third pillar ‘remedy’ relates to providing victims of human rights violations with a substantial remedy through judicial and non-judicial means.

Drawing on his experiences in the Niger Delta and South America with small and large-scale companies, Tripathi outlined the various challenges to Ruggie’s strategy. Lack of clarity in companies on the current subject is an issue as they are the core actors and most susceptible to trading off human rights care when faced with profit considerations. The companies either become party to the violations or remain silent especially in the conflict areas where economic stakes are high. The ideal is a ‘smart company’ which recognises its obligations to human rights – a company that stands up against the abuses and refuses to be a party to them, he said. The other challenge arises from states that are poor, disaster-stricken or where standards of governance are crumbling. In the absence of state priorities to safeguard human rights, the situation becomes more serious when companies operating there have lax standards.

Asked if making a livelihood is more important than a concern about human rights, Tripathi said companies should ensure that they do not commit an abuse or be complicit in it. He presented examples from South Africa and Zimbabwe where companies pulled out of ventures against human rights violations. When faced with tough choices, business groups should carefully think through the consequences of their actions before arriving at a decision. Tripathi proposed educating both small and large enterprises about Ruggies’ Framework. He said there was a need for the non-governmental sector to quantify the scale of violations and the state to place human rights as a high priority in its Memorandum of Understanding with these bodies.

Tripathi said the protection of migrant labour rights is crucial as this group stands at the crossroads of international and local laws. Recruiting companies should observe the principle of “dignity (of labour) and due diligence (of their rights)”, he said. On the future of this idea, he said that violations of rights will continue to exist and NGOs will continue to voice objections to these but this is the best time for states to protect individuals from exploitation.

Tripathi said in today’s world, corporate responsibility is getting more attention, with reports such as those on Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, found on http://www.business-humanrights.org/ and sites such as http://www.redflags.info/ that explicitly talks about cases of complicity.

The Institute’s work can be found on the website of the Institute for Human Rights and Business at http://www.ihrb.org/

 

By Asif Mehmood, a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the LKY School.

 
Synopsis:

The UN Human Rights Council has now endorsed the Protect-Respact-Remedy framework for business and human rights, and its guiding principles provide the way ahead for companies to operate in ways consistent with International human rights standards. The framework rests on a functioning state which plays its legitimate role. But businesses often operate in places where the state is unable or unwilling to protect rights. How can business function in zones of conflict, or deal with competing claims over resources, while complying with the law, and not be complicit in abuses?

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Speaker(s):

Mr. Salil Tripathi, Director of Policy, Institute for Human Rights and Business

Date:
Monday, 14 November 2011
Time:
12.15 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.
Venue:

Seminar Room 3-4
Level 3, Manasseh Meyer
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772

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