Non-State Actors, State-Centrism and Human Rights Obligations
Leiden Journal of International Law, Vol. 22, pp. 191-209, 2009
19 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2009 Last revised: 15 Feb 2015
Date Written: January 1, 2009
Despite not being an entirely new debate in international law and international relations, the nexus between human rights and non-state actors has become a highly relevant topic of scholarly research, as witnessed by three works published in 2005 and 2006 (P. Alston, Non-State Actors and Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), A. Clapham, Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) and O. De Schutter, Transnational Corporations and Human Rights (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2006)), which are the subject of this article. The discussed books share the common feature of examining the supposed weakening of the existing classical state-centric approach in international (human rights) law, therefore moving away from the traditional view that under human rights law, the individuals hold the rights, while only states bear the obligations.
This paper centres on the discussion on the descriptive and normative dimensions of the debate, and starts with a synopsis of the rationale behind these works, and the invoked factual necessity to consider changing the normative framework (1). Secondly, the paper analyses the question of subjects in international law, the role of non-state actors in the current international legal framework, and the normative challenges to this system (2). The second part also includes elements on the reasons why existing international law is seen to be unable to grasp these evolutions. The contents of the human rights obligations of non-governmental organisations, international organisations and transnational corporations will also be included in the second part.
Keywords: International law, human rights, non-state actors, state-centrism, transnational corporations, subjects
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