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UN Guiding Principles

ed Nations leads the international human rights community, it has little authority or influence over corporations. As a result of the United Nations’ lack of direct influence over TNCs, the effective- ness of any United Nations CSR instrument “sig- nificantly depends on state cooperation”10


thus may struggle to gain legitimacy in the eyes of corporate leaders. Finally, the United Nations’ past attempts to intervene in the international economic system - like the New International Eco- nomic Order - may come back to haunt it, since some scholars believe that “the UN’s authority in this area [has been] significantly tarnished in the eyes of [TNCs] and some Western states.”11

As a 28

result of these weaknesses, the United Nations should not work alone to create a global system of corporate responsibility. Thus, what follows is a discussion of five economically oriented IGOs - the OECD, ILO, World Bank, ICC, and WTO - and an evaluation of evaluate their CSR initiatives, the measures they have taken to promote the Guid- ing Principles, and what they can further do to ensure that the Guiding Principles become an au- thoritative business-human rights instrument.

A. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

As an organization focused on improving the global economy and enhancing foreign invest- ment, the OECD’s policies have strong implica- tions for TNCs—especially considering that its member-states make up the vast majority of TNC home states. The OECD Guidelines for Multi- national Enterprise (OECD MNE Guidelines),12


set of standards for TNCs, have been viewed as a particularly influential instrument for the CSR movement. In 2011 the OECD published a new version of the MNE Guidelines that, for the first time, included an entire chapter on human rights aspects of business.

The OECD MNE Guidelines go beyond the reach of the Guiding Principles by providing specific guidance for how corporations can behave more

responsibly in a variety of contexts, such as em- ployment and industrial relations, environment, bribery, science and technology, competition, and taxation. Additionally, though the OECD MNE Guidelines are entirely voluntary, they are “sup- ported by a unique implementation mechanism” known as National Contact Points (NCPs).13


OECD maintains at least one NCP in 42 coun- tries. The NCPs create a quasi-judicial mechanism that “provide[s] a mediation and conciliation plat- form for resolving practical issues that may arise with the implementation of the Guidelines.”14 Civil society groups or individuals can bring their grievances against corporations to an NCP, and the NCP will facilitate a voluntary conciliation process. For example, in 2008 the NCP for the United Kingdom resolved a human rights com- plaint brought by Global Witness against a Brit- ish mining company working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afrimex.15

After leading

mediation sessions between Global Witness and Afrimex, the NCP submitted its final statement, which explicitly recommended that Afrimex im- plement the UN Framework’s due diligence poli- cies. This illustration shows that not only are the NCPs an effective non-judicial remedial system, but also that the OECD has promoted the UN Guiding Principles through the NCPs.

B. International Labour Organization (ILO)

As a tripartite labor agency, the ILO brings to- gether government, employer, and worker repre- sentatives for a distinctive approach to member- ship. With a structure that facilitates cooperation between governments, labor, and business, the ILO stands uniquely positioned among United Na- tions affiliate agencies to influence the decisions of TNCs. The ILO’s most important instrument “for promoting labour standards and principles in the corporate world”16

is its Tripartite Declara-

tion of Principles Concerning Multinational Enter- prises and Social Policy (ILO MNE Declaration).17 In an effort to encourage TNCs to acknowledge the human rights implications of their activities,

ILSA Quarterly » volume 22 » issue 1 » October 2013

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