Closing the Gap. A Human Rights Approach to Regulating Corporations

106 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2015

Date Written: August 11, 2015


This paper examines the current system regulating state and corporate behavior with regards to human rights. As such it contributes to the debate on a global treaty on business and human rights through an interdisciplinary, human rights approach. The analysis takes a threefold approach to how one can best regulate corporations to secure an increased protection of rights. First, it asks whether there is a regulatory gap in protection in the current system. Reflecting on existing theories, the hypothesis is that there is a protection gap. To assess the hypothesis the paper takes an empirical approach, building on data from a newly constructed database holding information on eighty two global standards. Through a quantitative analysis of the standards, it concludes that there is a gap in protection that has to be addressed.

Second, having established a gap, the analysis further examines corporate and sectorial standards as alternatives to a global treaty. Relying on the same data, it quantitatively analyses the alternatives. Taking a human rights approach, it compares standards on human rights language, inclusion of human rights treaties, strength, parties, and enforcement mechanisms. It concludes that while neither corporate nor sectorial standards appear to have the potential to close the gap, a combination of sectorial standards and a global treaty may be a good solution.

Third, given the conclusion that a global treaty may be the best option, the final chapter asks if treaties have an impact. To answer the question, the paper examines the legislative impact of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FWCTC) on domestic legislation. Building on existing research and showing a clear link based on a newly constructed dataset, the analysis concludes that the FWCTC appears to have had a significant impact on the development of new regulation. Based on the theoretical discussions and empirical findings, the paper concludes that the best way to regulate corporations and states, to increase the protection of human rights, appears to be through a global framework convention; perhaps preferably supplemented by sectorial treaties.

Suggested Citation

Kirkebø, Tori, Closing the Gap. A Human Rights Approach to Regulating Corporations (August 11, 2015). PluriCourts Research Paper No. 15-06. Available at SSRN: or

Tori Kirkebø (Contact Author)

Pluricourts ( email )

P.O. Box 6706
St. Olavs plass 5
0130 Oslo

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