The Ruggie Framework: An Adequate Rubric for Corporate Human Rights Obligations?
John Ruggie, Special Representative to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Business and Human Rights, has released a framework in which he contends that the key responsibility of corporations is to respect human rights. This paper first seeks to analyse this contention in light of international human rights law: it shall be argued that whilst Ruggie’s conception of the responsibility to respect effectively includes a responsibility to protect as well, the nature of the responsibility remains largely ‘negative’ in nature. The second part of this paper argues that Ruggie’s conception of the nature of corporate obligations is mistaken: corporations should not only be required to avoid harm to fundamental rights; they must also be required to contribute actively to the realisation of such rights. A normative argument will be provided for this contention. This understanding of the nature of corporate obligations is of particular importance to developing countries and will be illustrated by considering the duties of pharmaceutical companies to make life-saving drugs available at affordable prices to those who need them.
Original in English.
Submitted in April 2010. Accepted in May 2010.