The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘GPs’) were unanimously endorsed in 2011 in the UN Human Rights Council and also recorded an unprecedented level of stakeholder support. Does this watershed signify a genuine convergence of expectations? Is the GPs’ conceptualization of the corporate ‘responsibility to respect’ (RtR) truly able to persuade and provide that focal point around which stakeholders can come together in a notoriously polarized debate? The main thesis is one that the UN Special Representative John Ruggie expressly denies: contrary to its name, the responsibility to ‘respect’ has a ‘protect’ component. The analysis examines why and how Ruggie constructed the RtR in the way he did. The ‘why’ is explained by the fundamental challenge coming from the separation of entities principle, unavoidable when the RtR is applied to multi-entity business enterprises. The ‘how’ reveals that Ruggie systematically reframed concepts, employed ingenious drafting techniques, used silence strategically, and fully capitalized on the strength and appeal of the ‘due diligence’ approach. The analysis exposes the strategy of change animating Ruggie’s efforts and the GPs attempt to facilitate the convergence of stakeholder expectations and the emergence of a polycentric governance regime.
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