Contextualising the Corporate Human Rights Responsibility in Africa: A Social Expectation or Legal Obligation?
(2017) 1 African Human Rights Yearbook 191-220
30 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2018
Date Written: July 15, 2017
It has been nearly impossible to muster global consensus on attributing companies with human rights obligations because of persisting contestations on how best to regulate corporate businesses under international law. Whilst several propositions exist including the recent UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, they mostly constitute ‘soft law’, are non-binding and essentially reinforce the same old argument that only states have human rights obligations. They have little or no legal repercussions on businesses, and provide no remedies to victims. Given the fault lines between the global North and South on the issue and the fatal impacts of transnational corporations in Africa, this article conceptualises a legal basis for demanding corporate accountability in Africa. The article utilises a doctrinal methodology, and two analytical approaches – the human right-based approach and insights from Third World approaches to international law – in establishing that since international human rights law places the protection and realisation of fundamental human and group interests at its core, its legal threshold requires that all endeavours which can impact on human rights, including abusive corporate conduct, are bound by its rules. It finds that the concept of ‘corporate human rights responsibility’ derives from international and domestic human rights law and therefore is vested with a legal basis as against the broader idea of corporate social responsibility that is based on voluntarism. With its emphasis on the protection of groups and individual duties, and recognition of corporate criminal responsibility, the African human rights and evolving criminal justice systems provide a background for conceptualising corporate responsibility in Africa differently.
Keywords: Corporate responsibility, corporate accountability, human rights, social expectation, legal obligation, Africa
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation