30 Nov 2010

getting the word out on human rights and business

Call it Human Rights 2.0.

The United Nations Special Representative on Human Rights, John Ruggie, has just released a draft of some new human rights guidelines for business.

They include what I -with no expertise in corporate responsibility - would expect the UN to demand from business: Governments should be prepared to withdraw public support from businesses involved in gross human rights abuses, businesses should track their human rights performance and be prepared to discuss their record publicly and businesses should establish grievance mechanisms for communities impacted by their activities, to name a few examples.

But you know what's really different about the draft, from a communications point of view?

The comments. There is a public comments section where anyone can weigh in on the draft and the principles behind them.

This will only give the resulting guidelines more credibility in the corporate responsibility field. Public comments on government and UN documents are nothing new, but traditionally they have been a little like the alien demolition team at the beginning of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:

There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

Or watch at 6:17 below:

This is more truth than fiction to this, at least in my experience in covering planning and zoning boards in the US.

So good for the UN for letting us all have our say ... after we register.

And please let me know if anyone is planning on knocking down my apartment building ...

Nathan Hegedus

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