This Blog Essay site devotes every February to a series of integrated but short essays on a single theme. The Ruminations Series in 2009 produced a month long series of aphoristic (ἀφορισμός) essays, meant to provoke thought rather than explain it. The hope was that, built up on each other, the series would provide a matrix of thoughts that together might lead the reader in new directions.
For 2010, this site introduces a new series--Business and Human Rights. The series takes as its starting point the issues and questions raised by John Ruggie, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on business and human rights, in a global online forumThe U.N. "Protect, Respect, Remedy" framework is made up of three pillars: the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and greater access by victims to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial. The forum is currently focused on the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, the second pillar of the framework. The forum is divided into sections, each of which contains multiple topics with space for discussion and comment.New Online Forum for U.N. Business and Human Rights Mandate, United Nations Press Release, New York and Geneva, Dec. 1, 2009. Each of the Essays will consider one of the topics raised in the online consultation. My hope is to help generate discussion and to encourage further discussion of the issues within the framework fo the consultation framework.
Part XXI: Human Rights Due Diligence--Issues: Finance.
While financial institutions have a responsibility to respect human rights like every other company, they are generally at least one step removed from the human rights impacts of the business activities that they enable with their funds.
A bank’s human rights due diligence for a project loan will differ from that of the company operating the project -- banks are unlikely to have the capacity to visit every site to which they provide capital. Nevertheless, banks must conduct human rights due diligence to meet their responsibility to respect human rights -- and the human rights risks of a client may also become risks to the funder's liability, returns and reputation.
Beyond banks lies an even more complex array of other lenders, investors, and asset managers, all of which have different means of engagement and leverage with companies.