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Interview with John G. Ruggie

30-09-2012 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 887

The conduct of multinational corporations, particularly those operating in conflict areas, is increasingly becoming subject to public scrutiny. More and more companies profess a commitment to live up to their human rights responsibilities in fragile contexts. In situations of armed conflict, international humanitarian law also applies. The business sector is, however, relatively less aware of this body of law.

In June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted unanimously the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which spell out what measures companies and states could take to strengthen the human rights performance of the business sector around the world.1 The Review wanted to hear from the person who spearheaded this initiative, Professor John G. Ruggie, and have his views on any emerging good practices amongst governments and companies in implementing the Guiding Principles, on the importance of due diligence criteria and grievance mechanisms, and on the role of regional organisations and civil society in promoting the Principles.

Trained as a political scientist, Professor Ruggie has made significant contributions to the study of international relations, focusing on the impact of economic and other forms of globalisation on global rule-making and the emergence of new rule-makers. In addition to his academic pursuits, Professor Ruggie has long been involved in practical policy work. From 1997–2001, he served as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning, assisting the Secretary-General in establishing and overseeing the UN Global Compact, and proposing and gaining General Assembly approval for the Millennium Development Goals. In 2005, Professor Ruggie was appointed as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. Over the course of six years and after extensive research, consultations, and work on pilot projects, Professor Ruggie developed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Today, he chairs the boards of two non-profits, the Institute for Human Rights and Business and Shift: Putting Principles into Practice, and serves as Senior Advisor to the corporate social responsibility practice of the law firm Foley Hoag LLP.

Biography

John G. Ruggie is Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, Former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights.