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States have a duty to protect human rights against abuse by third parties, including businesses. States are expected to do so by establishing appropriate policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.

Pillar I: State Duty to Protect

The first pillar of the Guiding Principles provides recommendations on how states can meet their existing international human rights obligations to protect against business-related human rights abuses by creating an environment that is conducive to business respect for human rights, including by:

  • Working to achieve greater legal and policy coherence between their human rights obligations and their actions with respect to business, including by enforcing existing laws, identifying and addressing any policy or regulatory gaps and providing effective guidance to business;
  • Fostering business respect for human rights both at home and abroad;
  • Taking particular measures where there is a close nexus between the state and business such as ownership or when a state conducts commercial transactions with business (such as through government procurement or the provision of trade or export credit support);
  • Helping ensure that businesses operating in conflict-affected areas do not commit or contribute to serious human rights abuses;
  • Fulfilling their duty to protect when they participate in multilateral institutions (e.g., World Bank, OECD) with other states. 

States also have obligations when it comes to providing remedy, which is addressed in Pillar 3.

Principles for Responsible Contracts: Integrating the Management of Human Rights Risks Into State-Investor Contract Negotiations: Guidance for Negotiators

June 2011 | John G. Ruggie; UN Human Rights Council, UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights

This resource, issued as an addendum to Ruggie’s final report to the UN Human Rights Council, outlines 10 principles designed to help guide the integration of human rights risk management into contract negotiations.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

June 2011 | John G. Ruggie; United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

This resource is the global authoritative standard on the business responsibility to respect human rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011.

Human Rights Translated: A Business and Reference Guide

November 2008 | Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, International Business Leaders Forum, and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

This comprehensive, baseline resource for businesses lays out what human rights are and how businesses can impact them.

Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights

April 2008 | John G. Ruggie; UN Human Rights Council

This report was submitted by John Ruggie to the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 and establishes the three-pillar framework for the Guiding Principles: protect, respect, remedy. It is not the Guiding Principles but helps to explain the rationale for them.

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