I have noted in earlier posts that a significant problem of implementation for the Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights has been the ambiguity of the state duty to protect human rights. (See here, here and here). That duty is undefined in the Guiding Principles and tends to vary considerably from state to state. It is a conservative concept, grounded in a narrow and rigid approach to international law and the international obligations of states--limited to the letter of a state's obligation to transpose international conventions into their domestic legal orders. International norms tend to be excluded from the state duty to protect human rights, and finds expression only within the transnational sphere--the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which incorporates a broader and more coherent framework for human rights consideration in business practice.
Yet there are two important and coherence enhancing roles that might be played by the state duty pillar of the Guiding Principles. The first involves the wide dissemination of the Guiding Principles in the local languages of states--especially of states that tend to play host to downstream supply chain operations of multinational enterprises (whether private or as part of the overseas investment arms of state owned enterprises). The second, and perhaps more immediately important, is the role fo the Guiding Principles in focusing states on efforts to combat corruption in the context of the human rights affecting activities of states and business enterprises. These points were described in recent efforts to translate and incorporate the Guiding Principles within the Ukraine. The Statement by Mr. Ivan Šimonović, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at the Roundtable on the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, Kyiv, 12 December 2014 follows. It is worth considering not so much for the concepts developed as for the window it provides on the thinking of business and human rights directing officials. Beyond its regrettable misconceptions of the extent of the state duty, it points quite clearly both to the power of the Guiding Principles to set the framework for discussion (and management) of business behaviors within host states, but it also underscores the importance of anti-corruption efforts as an essential part of the state duty to protect human rights.