Workshop on International Law, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development

Workshop on International Law, Natural Resources and Sustainable
Implementing the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework: A Transformation of
International Human Rights Law?
David Szablowski
Department of Social Science, York University, Toronto
This paper explores some of the theoretical and practical implications related to the
adoption of International Human Rights (IHR) norms and discourse into private governance
schemes regulating the activities of business, with a particular focus on the transnational
extractive sector (oil, gas and mineral exploitation).
Extractive firms have generally sought to avoid substantial engagement with IHR in their
private governance schemes. However the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” (PRR)
Framework (developed by John Ruggie and adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2008)
calls for business enterprises to integrate human rights discourse into their internal
decision-making processes and corporate culture. Pursuant to the framework, firms have a
responsibility to track and address their human rights performance by developing internal
due diligence mechanisms including management systems and assessment tools. A number
of extractive firms have made commitments to implement these sorts of schemes and to
report on their human rights performance.
Some human rights scholars have suggested that the most important contributions of
human rights discourse may be how they influence popular consciousness and how they are
creatively used and adapted by social movements. This paper is concerned with how human
rights are potentially re-imagined through their integration into the internal bureaucratic
processes of large enterprises, their subcontractors, and their consultants. It draws upon
socio-legal research on the “managerialization” of civil rights law in the U.S. and studies on
the construction of compliance in various regulatory contexts. In addition to a theoretical
exploration of the issues, this paper presents a comparative study of human rights reporting
on firms operating in the extractive sector involving documents generated by human rights
NGO, private governance initiatives, and voluntary corporate reporting.