Ruggie urges action to protect human rights lation
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 19:03
Human rights violations occur every day, but there are certain practices that governments and businesses need to undertake to prevent them, according to a Harvard professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, John Ruggie who gave a talk yesterday evening at the Dodd Center.
As part of the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Lecture Series, Ruggie outlined strategies for governments and businesses to work together to end human rights violations around the world. According to Ruggie, preventing human rights violations cannot be taken on by just governments or corporations by themselves, but rather aligned in a collective effort.
Ruggie also explained how the concept of meaning management, which takes a look at established laws in countries today rather than creating new legislation that protects human rights.
“Rather than insisting new law, instead what we’re going to do is look at what existing legal obligations are, what existing social norms are and then we’re going to develop a common understanding of what they imply,” Ruggie said.
In order for governments and businesses to work together, there are a few guiding principles that Ruggie suggested that each actor should follow in order to create progressive policies and legislation. The first principle that Ruggie explained was that states need to take it upon themselves to punish those who violate human rights by having clear and concise rules that must be followed. According to Ruggie, this is the bedrock of international human rights protection.
The second guiding principle that Ruggie discussed was for companies to act responsibly by following a human rights due diligence process. This is a high level of commitment from a company to respect the human rights of their employees. This is especially important in high-risk areas, such as the mining industry, according to Ruggie.
In one instance, Ruggie recalled a mine in Peru, where a local priest called attention to human rights violations by a mining company. When nothing was being done about the problem, the priest assembled 10,000 protesters to siege the mine, which ended in violence. Ruggie warned that businesses need to have mechanisms in place to handle problems before innocent lives are lost.
“You have to create a big problem otherwise nobody is going to pay attention to you,” Ruggie said. “Certain mechanisms help companies deal with problems before they become major and result in loss of life.”
Ruggie concluded his speech by addressing the actions that need to take place in order to move forward. He said that we should work on capacity building and support developing countries so they can handle violations of human rights as they arise. Ruggie also said that there needs to be more regulation of corporate laws to better protect human rights.
Students and faculty in attendance thought the lecture shed light on important issues facing the world today. Aamir Aziz, a 6th-semester accounting major was happy to have the opportunity to hear Ruggie’s lecture at UConn.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to hear a noble speaker come to UConn,” Aziz said. “It’s good notoriety for the university and he brought up some really important points on human rights that are relevant today.”
Last year UConn became the first public university in the country to establish a human rights major. Corinne Tagliarina, a political science Ph.D. student at UConn, said that offering a major in human rights to students is great for the university.
“I think the human rights program at UConn is a big asset to the university,” Tagliarina said. “I think that it is trailblazing for academia as a whole. I think we’re really helping to point the direction that human rights studies are going to go all over the country.”