In September 2013, a number of countries issued a joint statement in favour of an international treaty on business and human rights. The statement was drafted by Ecuador and signed also by the African Group, the Arab Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru. These countries believe that a legally binding treaty “would clarify the obligations of transnational corporations in the field of human rights” and “provide for the establishment of effective remedies for victims in cases where domestic jurisdiction is clearly unable to prosecute effectively those companies”. More than 90 national groups, international NGOs and trade unions have expressed their support for this initiative.
On 28 January, John Ruggie, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University and UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights between 2005 and 2011, released a response to the mentioned statement. Thereby he defends the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework developed during his mandate as Special Representative and praises the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that he himself drafted and were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The Guiding Principles were severely criticised by several civil society organisations that deemed them overtly ineffective to regulate the human rights responsibilities of transnational companies. However, Professor Ruggie is pleased with his own framework and expresses in this way why he believes Ecuador and the NGOs are mistaken: Continue reading
Last week a few members of King’s College London held the first session of our reading group on Law and Social Sciences. We discussed Richard Bellamy’s “Rights as Democracy” (2012), and we also read Isaiah Berlin’s seminal “Two Concepts of Liberty” (1958) with Skinner’s critique, “A Third Concept of Liberty” (2002).
In his article, Bellamy opposes the traditional liberal justification of human rights as a set of prepolitical liberties and entitlements. Bellamy conceives rights in line with the republican notion of non-domination and claims that they require a democratic justification, which is by definition a political process. From that premise Bellamy works out the argument for a “rights-based judicial review of legislation”, that takes judicial hermeneutics away from professional and non-democratic courts and gives this power to “the people themselves” (I am indebted to my friend Donald Bello Hutt for introducing this concept to me).
For Bellamy, a political process to claim and justify rights must possess three important features. “First, it must show equal respect for the different views of individuals as rights bearers. Second it should also demonstrate equal concern for their capacity to employ their rights on the same terms as others. (…) Third, it will have to answer to the ‘traditional purpose’ of rights as means for holding power to account and marking its limits”.
I must start by saying that I find Bellamy’s argument both powerful and persuasive. Continue reading
Hace unos días una amiga puso esta foto en su perfil del Facebook. Junto a ella escribió “No, este hombre no conoce a esta mujer”. Ese mismo día, o quizás la víspera, entré en el vagón de metro y me senté sin pensarlo frente a un chico joven. Justo antes de partir entró una atractiva mujer y se sentó junto a la puerta, dos lugares a mi izquierda. Abrí mi libro, pero por reflejo levanté la mirada y vi cómo aquel chico la observaba fijamente. El tren prácticamente no había salido de la estación cuando la mujer se levantó y rápidamente fue a sentarse al otro extremo del vagón. El chico hizo un gesto, que yo interpreté como una mezcla de sorpresa y desgana, y volvió a su periódico gratuito.
Hace ya tiempo la profesora de francés nos hizo unas preguntas para provocar el debate entre los cuatro alumnos de la clase: dos mujeres jóvenes, un hombre mayor y un servidor. El hombre tenía la costumbre de ser el primero en contestar. Aquel día, cuando se le agotaban las ideas mirándome con interés decía: “a lo mejor Koldo tiene algo que añadir”. Las otras dos personas eran al parecer nuestras convidadas de piedra. Continue reading
This article was originally published in Dialogue, issue 6, winter 2013.
In the last two decades, norms and beliefs have put on weight in scholarly research in international relations. Traditional (neo)realists would still insist that international relations are only about one predetermined goal, that is, survival. Nonetheless, among those willing to accept that there is room for choice in foreign affairs, the study of human rights in foreign policy has focused so far on issues like motivations, consistency, assessment and impact. These are certainly critical aspects that deserve due attention in order to comprehend the possibilities of a foreign policy that includes human rights into its defining elements. However, I believe it is time to take another step and make the case that the existing global legal regime imposes certain human rights duties on States also when they work as international actors. Continue reading
I will be honest with you: I tend to dislike the idea of categorising human rights violations with numbers. If human rights are indivisible and interdependent, how can we say that the violation of this right deserves a “4” while the violation of that one will do with a “2”. Does that mean that two of the latter equal one of the former? It won’t be me telling that to the victim. Continue reading
The puzzle is probably as applicable to Europe as to the rest of the world. Looking at the way intelligence agencies have been spying over European citizens, or at the “legacy of poverty” that the austerity policies are leaving behind, we can legitimately wonder if freedom, social justice, democracy and human rights are at all appealing within the West itself and, specifically, in Europe. However, the question that I ask myself today is whether these values and norms are still attractive in developing countries, if they ever were.
A few days ago, I attended an event co-organised by Ipsos Mori and KCL International Development Institute, where they presented a research into public perceptions about growth and prosperity in emerging economies. The survey was conducted online and about 6000 people were interviewed in 11 countries: Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, India, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Mexico. When asked about what country/region has the best economic ideas and offer better employment opportunities, the US and China led way ahead (28 and 26%) and the EU came third (16%). In fact, the EU only was first in 2 of the 11 countries: Turkey and South Korea. Interestingly enough, Brazilians, Russians and Indians all agree that China is leading the way among the BRICs. From the perspective of the emerging world, the Chinese model now seems at least as relevant as the American one, and the decline of Europe is just evident.