The World Trade Organization and Human Rights: The Role of Principles of Good Governance

38 Pages Posted: 24 May 2011

See all articles by Nicola Jägers

Nicola Jägers

Tilburg University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 17, 2011


Over the past decade the World Trade Organization (WTO) has increasingly become the whipping post of those that criticize globalization. There have been violent expressions of this critique on the streets of cities around the world. But the critique has also arisen in documents of respected international organizations. A striking example is the report on globalization and human rights written in 2000 by two special rapporteurs of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights in which the WTO is described as being a ‘veritable nightmare’ for developing countries.

The main critique of the WTO is that its activities have serious human rights implications and that the organization as such does not properly address the human rights aspects of these activities. The present article will address the question as to the human rights implications of its activities. We will demonstrate that generally the WTO as an international organization does not directly violate human rights. The WTO cannot be compared to other international organizations whose operations may violate the human rights of individuals. To make this clear we will examine to what extent the WTO has been attributed an international legal personality (i.e., was given certain autonomy by its founders) in the first part of this article. Subsequently, it will be argued that even though the WTO does not violate human rights directly its activities can have implications for the enjoyment and protection of human rights.

Keywords: Human rights, WTO, good governance

JEL Classification: K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Jägers, Nicola, The World Trade Organization and Human Rights: The Role of Principles of Good Governance (May 17, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Nicola Jägers (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE

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