Business and Human Rights

In today’s global economy corporations rival states in terms of their reach, resources, and power. As corporate operations expand so do their impacts on human rights. Yet, the legal framework for regulating corporate conduct and holding businesses accountable when they cause or contribute to human rights harm lags far behind. As non-state actors, corporations continue to fall through the gaps in international human rights law, which principally governs state conduct in relation to individuals. Past efforts to develop binding international standards of corporate conduct have repeatedly failed, due largely to resistance from corporations that balk at the perceived costs of new rules, and from states that see international regulation of their corporate nationals as an affront to their sovereignty.

A renewed attempt to draft a binding treaty on business and human rights is underway; meanwhile, voluntary initiatives remain the chief source of norms governing corporate conduct. These range from the pledges of individual businesses and industry-created standards to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In their efforts to deliver justice for individuals and communities harmed by business activities, human rights advocates face the great challenge of translating these voluntary commitments into concrete changes in corporate practice.

CHRGJ is dedicated to addressing the role of non-state actors in respecting human rights, as well as the duty of states to protect individuals against harmful conduct by non-state actors. Through research and advocacy aimed at increasing corporate accountability for human rights violations and at strengthening the normative framework governing corporate conduct, the Center strives to ensure that the international human rights regime keeps up with the rapidly evolving reality of the global economy, and with the shift away from the state-centered focus that has dominated human rights law to date.

Our Experts
Bassam Khawaja
Counsel, Human Rights and Privatization Project
Ellie Happel
Adjunct Professor, Global Justice Clinic
Co-Director, Haiti Justice and International Accountability
Co-Director, Caribbean Climate Justice Initiative
Margaret L. Satterthwaite
CHRGJ Faculty Director
Director, Global Justice Clinic
Professor of Clinical Law
Rebecca Riddell
Legal and Policy Director, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Counsel, Human Rights and Privatization Project

For a complete record of CHRGJ’s work on business and human rights, visit our searchable Document Center and News and Events archives.

Recent Documents
Press Releases and Statements
October 19, 2018
UN Poverty Expert Warns against Tsunami of Unchecked Privatisation
View Document
Reports and Briefing Papers
September 26, 2018
UN Special Rapporteur Report on Privatization
View Document
Press Releases and Statements
May 17, 2018
Morne Perle Open Letter Opposing Mining (English)
View Document

Related Pages

Initiative on Inequality, the Global Economy, and Human Rights
Tax and Human Rights
Haiti Justice and International Accountability
Commercial Spyware and the Surveillance State

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