Multinational Corporations in International Law
KU Leuven Working Paper No. 129
24 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2013
Date Written: December 1, 2013
This paper analyses the status, rights and obligations of multinational corporations (MNCs) under international law, focusing in particular on international human rights, investment, environmental and criminal law. Private companies wield increasing economic and social power, frequently rivalling the one of states. While they are thereby in a position to contribute to the economic and technological development of societies, they can also harm human rights, damage the environment, or commit crimes. Domestic law has proven to be insufficient to promote the positive effects of business by safeguarding a stable and reliable economic environment, and to curb the negative effects by ensuring accountability. Assessing MNCs in the framework of international law, this paper comes to the conclusion that, independent of whether or not MNCs have international legal personality, they enjoy considerable rights under international investment law and under international human rights law. Conversely, MNCs do not have binding obligations under international law, notwithstanding a range of initiatives, attempting to create, both, voluntary and non-voluntary instruments.
Keywords: Bilateral investment treaties, European Court of Human Rights, Global Compact, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ILO Tripartite Declaration, Multinational corporations, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, UN Draft Norms
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