Business and Human Rights: From Domestic Institutionalisation to Transnational Governance and Back Again

Nordic Journal of Human Rights Volume 37, 2019 - Issue 3: The Domestic Institutionalisation of Human Rights, Pages 216-233

22 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2020

See all articles by Claire Methven O'Brien

Claire Methven O'Brien

University of Dundee - Dundee Law School; University of Strathclyde - Strathclyde Business School

Jolyon Ford

ANU College of Law

Date Written: October 21, 2019

Abstract

The ‘business and human rights’ (BHR) field emerged amidst concerns during the last thirty years over the adequacy of national legal systems and institutions in addressing transnational human rights impacts of global market integration. BHR relies on transnational governance networks and advocacy that transcend a ‘national’ paradigm. Yet BHR norms and initiatives at the same time remain anchored in national governmental entities and processes. The BHR field thus provides an interesting standpoint from which to reflect on the coherence and relevance of the concept of ‘domestic institutionalisation’ of human rights. This article proceeds as follows. First it briefly explores how BHR disrupts the paradigmatic view of domestic human rights institutions, given its transnational character and because BHR addresses market actors not just as potential rights violators but as vectors of human rights implementation. We then suggest that BHR re-draws the perimeter of the national human rights system in four ways: by triggering new business-focussed activities by existing national human rights actors; by drawing both new government entities and market actors into the domestic human rights implementation machinery; and via national components of associational or hybrid governance mechanisms. Next, we argue that BHR’s extension of the ontology of human rights institutionalisation suggests the relevance of multi-level governance theory in analysing the BHR field. In conclusion we observe that, by demonstrating the lack of clear boundaries between domestic and international, public and private, BHR further highlights the need to situate the concepts of human rights institutionalisation and national human rights institution in the context of global market society.

Keywords: Business and human rights; national protection systems; national action plans; institutionalisation; regulatory pluralism; multi-level governance

JEL Classification: K10, K20, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Methven O'Brien, Claire and Ford, Jolyon, Business and Human Rights: From Domestic Institutionalisation to Transnational Governance and Back Again (October 21, 2019). Nordic Journal of Human Rights Volume 37, 2019 - Issue 3: The Domestic Institutionalisation of Human Rights, Pages 216-233, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3540008

Claire Methven O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of Dundee - Dundee Law School ( email )

Park Place Scrymgeour Building
Dundee, DD14HN
United Kingdom

University of Strathclyde - Strathclyde Business School ( email )

United Kingdom

Jolyon Ford

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

HOME PAGE: https://law.anu.edu.au/staff/jolyon-ford

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