human rights & business (and a few other things)

John Ruggie’s Book Launch in London

Last night John Ruggie, former UN Secretary-General Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, was in London to launch his new book, Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights. Professor Ruggie, from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, was the driving force behind the ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ Framework and subsequent Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011.

It was a great evening of celebration hosted by the Institute for Human Rights and Business at the Royal Society, at a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square. Three speakers took the floor before him, representing the three main groups of stakeholders in the Business and Human Rights field: governments, business and the non-governmental sector.

Vijay Rangarajan, from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, insisted on the formidable accomplishment the Guiding Principles represent. He said that anyone who works in foreign affairs should measure the extent to which the adoption of the Guiding Principles constitutes a diplomatic tour de force. Sir Mark Moody Stuart, Vice Chairman of the UN Global Compact Board, gave the business perspective on the process by which the Guiding Principles were elaborated and emphasized the importance of now having Guiding Principles when there was previously no common standard. He compared the task John Ruggie was faced with at the start of his mandate to one of a general faced with a devastated battlefield from the First World War, i.e. hopeless, with no movement. Peter Frankental from Amnesty International UK acknowledged the fact that the Guiding Principles constitute a great achievement but also insisted on the numerous remaining challenges in the field of business and human rights.

Finally, John Ruggie himself said a few words about his mandate and the journey that led to the adoption of the Guiding Principles, before proceeding to sign copies of his book for the guests. I was one of the first persons to have my copy signed and when I left one hour later, he was still signing away. The publishers even ran out of copies!

A truly pleasant and inspirational evening.

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