• June, 2011
  • By: 
    Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were developed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises to provide guidance for the implementation of the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework. These Guiding Principles are grounded in recognition of:

  1. States’ existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  2. The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights;
  3. The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.

These Guiding Principles apply to all States and to all business enterprises, both transnational and others, regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership and structure.

The Special Representative annexed the Guiding Principles to his final report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/17/31), which also includes an introduction to the Guiding Principles and an overview of the process that led to their development. The Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011.


To make the content of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights more accessible and easily undertandable, the Danish Institute for Human Rights created the following video summarizing the document:


The "Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: An Interpretive Guide" provides additional background explanation to the Guiding Principles to support a full understanding of their meaning and intent. The Guide’s content was the subject of numerous consultations during the six years of Professor Ruggie’s mandate and was reflected in his many public reports and speeches, but has not previously been brought together. While this Guide focuses on the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, it in no way reduces the equally important duty of States to protect human rights against abuse by third parties, including business.

Chapter I of this Interpretive Guide briefly defines some key concepts used in the Guiding Principles. Chapters II and III focus on the substance of those Guiding Principles that address the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, with a series of basic questions and answers to help interpret each principle, its intent and the implications of its implementation. Chapter II covers the five “foundational principles” of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which are the basis for all the “operational principles” of chapter III. These operational principles elaborate on the policies and processes businesses need to have in place to ensure that they respect human rights. They follow the same structure as the Guiding Principles:

  • Policy commitment
  • Human rights due diligence
  • Remediation
  • Issues of context

The Guiding Principles address the issue of remediation both under the second pillar (the corporate responsibility to respect) and under the third (access to remedy). Those Guiding Principles on access to remedy that are relevant to businesses are included here under “Remediation”, for the sake of completeness. Section D focuses on dilemmas where the operating context of a business seems to preclude or limit its ability to respect all human rights in practice.

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