The UDHR was written in 1948 as a global repudiation of the horrors of state totalitarianism.
For the first 40 or 50 years of its existence, the primary offenders remained states however the United Nations, custodian of the Declaration, has started looking at rights more broadly.
Increasingly multinational corporations are being seen as rights offenders. In 2000 the United Nations launched the UN Global Compact, under which signatory corporations commit to uphold basic human rights in their operations. The reasoning is simple: the workforces of many of today’s corporations are the size of cities. There are about as many people working for McDonald’s, for example, as there are working in the city of Melbourne.
Continuing the momentum, in 2004 Kofi Annan convened a summit on good corporate citizenship and in 2005 John Ruggie was appointed ‘Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights and transnational corporations’.