Annan tells lawyers to go beyond their duty to clients

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the International Bar Association in Vienna that, when it comes to business and human rights, corporate lawyers have a higher duty than meeting the expectations of their clients.

Mr Annan (pictured) was speaking alongside John Ruggie, professor in human rights and international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. They are the architects of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which amount to a non-binding corporate social responsibility charter. Prof Ruggie described them as being based on three pillars: a state duty to protect rights, a corporate responsibility to respect rights and access to remedies for victims of abuses.

‘Go beyond’

Mr Annan highlighted the role in-house and corporate lawyers have in turning the principles into practice: ‘You are in a unique position of influence. You give your clients the advice they want to hear, but you need to go beyond that.’ For example, paying employees reasonably should not depend on minimum wage legislation. Sources: The Law Society Gazette; International Bar Association

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