The Weak Underbelly of Business and Human Rights: Reflections on the 8th U.N. Forum on Business and Human Rights

Emancipating the Mind in the New Era: Bulletin of the Coalition for Peace & Ethics Vol. 15 Issue 1 (2020)

40 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2020

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: May 14, 2020

Abstract

The 8th UN Forum for Business and Human Rights, held at the end of November 2019, was meant to re-center the state within the discourse and practice of human rights based management of global economic activity. This essay considers two significant challenges to that effort. The first touches on the disappearance of small, poor, and developing states, within the construct of state based regulation of business and human rights (Part 1: The Obliteration of the State, or, Does Lesotho Exist?). The second ("'Falling in Love Again:' 'Smart Mixes' and the De-Centering of the State Within Private Compliance Governance Orders") examines the way that new regulatory approaches continue the process of legal privatization and a further de-centering of the state even as it appears to try to the the opposite. The ultimate object of the essay is to suggest the contradictions that now appear more prominently in advancing the international business and human rights project on the basis of its current ordering premises. Whether consciously or not, the leading actors, both public and private, of this enterprise have backed themselves into a corner. The more they assert the principles in favor of national action, the more effectively they appear to manage the privatization of human rights and economic activity in precisely the ways they actually seek to avoid.

Keywords: Business and human rights, UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, Private law, International Law, globalization, CSR

JEL Classification: F15, F53, J88, K33, M14

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, The Weak Underbelly of Business and Human Rights: Reflections on the 8th U.N. Forum on Business and Human Rights (May 14, 2020). Emancipating the Mind in the New Era: Bulletin of the Coalition for Peace & Ethics Vol. 15 Issue 1 (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3600970 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3600970

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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