A Dialogue with Ruggie?

To change so that everything remains the same...

An assessment of John Ruggie’s 2009 and 2010 Reports

Alejandro Teitelbaum

Alejandro Teitelbaum has devoted many years to work on the issue of human rights in the sphere of influence of global corporations and other business enterprises. As the former Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, for the American Association of Jurists –based in Buenos Aires, he spent time toiling with the bureaucracies of the UN and member states, in his pursuit of an international legal framework that would harness business activity so that it would stop violating a wide array of human rights in its sphere of influence, as is customarily the case today. As such, he participated in the process followed by the now extinct Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights of the UN’s Economic and Social Council to assess the impact on human rights of business activities and to prepare a legally-binding code of conduct on this issue. He witnessed how, time and time again, the bureaucracies succumbed to the will of the leading economic powers, who were adamant at maintaining the preeminence of corporate interest over their responsibility for their infringement on human rights.

In recent years Teitelbaum has assessed the clearly biased work of John Ruggie, the so-called Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Business and Human Rights, appointed, arguably, to design a framework that would “increase the stakes” for corporations when infringing upon human rights in their daily operations. Teitelbaum has consistently criticised Ruggie’s clear inclination for neoliberal ideology at the service of transnational economic power, which clearly opposes any kind of instrument that would govern, in a binding manner, business practices concerning human rights. In this brief, we have combined his assessments of Ruggie’s 2009 and 2010 reports. Teitelbaum’s commentary recounts how it all began at the UN, in the 1970s –when a growing concern for increasing human rights violations by business entities elicited a call to regulate their practices. This provides a very valuable background to expose how both governments and multilateral institutions have coalesced with corporations to block any attempt by civil society, up to now, to rein in business practice through a legally-binding framework.

As could be expected, Tei telbaum’s succinct recommendation, at the end of his assessment of Ruggie’s 2010 report, is that “the UN Human Rights Council should make an about turn of 180 degrees on this issue to be in sync with the gravity of the social and economic situation in which the world is living”. Jus Semper is happy to welcome an intellectual work, based on first hand experiences, that makes an important contribution to expose the connivance between governments, multilateral institutions and the owners of the market to maintain the same “laissez faire” ethos that has brought the world to a very dangerous state.

 

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