Briefing 4.2 - The role of global instruments and frameworks on human rights and labour rights

2. UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

In 2011 the UN Human Rights Council adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which contains three distinct but interrelated principles: the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including by business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights through proactive due diligence to avoid infringing on rights of others (‘do no harm’ principle); and greater access by victims to effective remedy. “Guidance to business enterprises on respecting human rights should indicate expected outcomes and help share best practices. It should advise on appropriate methods, including human rights due diligence, and how to consider effectively issues of gender, vulnerability and/or marginalization, recognizing the specific challenges that may be faced by indigenous peoples, women, national or ethnic minorities, religious and linguistic minorities, children, persons with disabilities, and migrant workers and their families.”

Specific reference is made to conflict-affected areas and to “providing adequate assistance to business enterprises to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses, paying special attention to both gender-based and sexual violence. In tracking the effectiveness of implementation, the guidance recommends “using gender-disaggregated data where relevant”. The follow-up mechanism includes the establishment of a working group on business and human rights, whose mandate includes integration of a gender perspective throughout its work and special attention to persons living in vulnerable situations.

The due diligence concept describes a responsibility for companies to proactively identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights. The introduction of this concept in the UN Guiding Principles and the 2011 OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises may impact on multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) in two different ways. First of all, it may prove to be a useful concept to transcribe in MSI standards and requirements for companies that participate in the MSI. Furthermore, as part of the implementation of due diligence processes, companies may increasingly seek to link up to MSIs.


For further information about the UN Guiding Principles see: