Human Rights and Transnational Corporations: Can More Meaningful International Obligations Be Established?

INTERNATIONAL LAW, ECONOMIC GLOBALISATION AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, Faundez & Tan, eds., Edward Elgar, Forthcoming

Warwick School of Law Research Paper

23 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2009 Last revised: 15 Nov 2009

See all articles by James Harrison

James Harrison

University of Warwick - School of Law

Date Written: October 23, 2009

Abstract

This contribution considers the value of international human rights norms and standards as mechanisms for effectively holding transnational corporations (TNCs) accountable for their broader social impacts, particularly in the context of developing countries. It argues that there are a number of existing human rights initiatives directed at the human rights performance of TNCs. But these suffer from significant accountability gaps and coverage problems which throw into question whether international human rights obligations are well-placed to act as a system for enhancing TNC conduct across the full range of their diverse social impacts. It therefore focuses upon two specific methodological frameworks which are addressed to all TNCs internationally to assess how they might contribute to the establishment of more meaningful obligations; ‘The UN Draft Norms’ and ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights’ produced by the UN Special Representative, John Ruggie.

In assessing these initiatives, the chapter argues that criticism of the Draft Norms by Ruggie and others is largely justified. It further contends that Ruggie’s approach has a number of advantages in terms of its potential to create a positive impact on the human rights performance of TNCs. But it also argues there are limitations to the Ruggie Framework and that it requires significant further work if it is to be fully operationalised. Finally it is stressed that there are limits to what any international human rights framework can achieve in altering behaviour of relevant actors. We must therefore continue to monitor the Ruggie Framework to make sure that it is part of the solution to the problems, rather than, at worst, an unhelpful distraction from meaningful action.

Keywords: human rights, transnational corporations, multinational companies, corporate social responsibility, MNCs, TNCs, CSR, Ruggie, UN Draft Norms

Suggested Citation

Harrison, James, Human Rights and Transnational Corporations: Can More Meaningful International Obligations Be Established? (October 23, 2009). INTERNATIONAL LAW, ECONOMIC GLOBALISATION AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, Faundez & Tan, eds., Edward Elgar, Forthcoming; Warwick School of Law Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1493305

James Harrison (Contact Author)

University of Warwick - School of Law ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/staff/academic/harrison

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