Workshop on International Law, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development

Workshop on International Law, Natural Resources and Sustainable
Establishing a Meaningful Human Rights Due Diligence Process for Corporations: Learning
from Experience of Human Rights Impact Assessment
James Harrison
School of Law, University of Warwick
The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Business and Human
Rights, Prof John Ruggie, has constructed a new international framework, which is set to
become the cornerstone for all action on human rights and business at the international
level. The principle of human rights due diligence (HRDD) is the central component of the
corporate duty to respect human rights within that framework. This presentation is based
on a published article (available on open access here) which evaluates HRDD.
The article argues that Ruggie’s HRDD principle contains the majority of the core procedural
elements that a reasonable human rights impact assessment (HRIA) process should
incorporate. It is likely that the majority of corporations will adopt HRIA as a mechanism for
meeting their due diligence responsibilities. But, in the context of the contentious debate
around corporate human rights performance, the current state of the art of HRIA gives rise
to concerns about the credibility and robustness of likely practice. Additional requirements
are therefore essential if HRDD is to have a significant impact on corporate human rights
performance – requirements in relation to transparency; external participation and
verification; and independent monitoring and review.
The presentation will also consider the particular issues that arise in relation to the
application of the principle of HRDD in the extractive sector, and explore some of the
current practice in relation to HRIA in that field.