Business and Human Rights in Europe 2011-2021: A Decade in Review

Philip Czech et al (eds.) European Yearbook of Human Rights 2021 (Intersentia)

30 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2021

See all articles by Claire Methven O'Brien

Claire Methven O'Brien

Danish Institute for Human Rights, Human Rights and Development Department; University of Dundee Law School; University of St. Andrews School of Management

Date Written: July 19, 2021

Abstract

Business-related human rights abuses remain endemic in Europe and globally. European actors have implemented measures to address business-related human rights abuses both prior and subsequent to the United Nations 2011 Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, a central reference point of the emerging field of business and human rights. This article reviews steps taken in Europe towards preventing and redressing business-related human rights abuses in the European Union, Council of Europe and nationally. Its analysis discloses a decade of conceptual change, legislative and policy innovations that encompass some concrete advances in the regulation of specific value chains, technologies and forms of abuse. It shows a downwards cascade from international to regional norms, but also endogenous and regionally-specific European initiatives, and the lack of uniform or linear transposition of the UNGPs across European states, value chains and institutions. It also demonstrates the complex goals and diverse regulatory approaches applied to secure respect for human rights in Europe’s market sphere, and their reliance on the capacities and involvement of a multiplicity of public, private, local and transnational actors. Highlighting challenges to the normative, doctrinal and institutional coherence of human rights law and policy attendant on the transmission of human rights norms and standards into the market sphere, it identifies conflicts and dilemmas for human rights scholars, practitioners and policy-makers. Ten observations are advanced on a decade of business and human rights in Europe relating to: the extension of human rights’ normative horizon; concomitant doctrinal challenges; hard and soft law; impacts for Europe’s regional human rights systems; divergencies between intra-EU and ‘global’ business and human rights agendas; financialisation of business and human rights accountability; remediation; implications for UN business and human rights treaty; and business and human rights knowledge and research.

Keywords: Human rights, tech giants, platforms, corporate responsibility to respect human rights, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, responsible business conduct, European Union, governance, Council of Europe, regional, due diligence, non-financial reporting, ESG, trafficking, value chains

JEL Classification: K29, K33, K30, K10, K20, F60, L86

Suggested Citation

Methven O'Brien, Claire, Business and Human Rights in Europe 2011-2021: A Decade in Review (July 19, 2021). Philip Czech et al (eds.) European Yearbook of Human Rights 2021 (Intersentia) , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3890632

Claire Methven O'Brien (Contact Author)

Danish Institute for Human Rights, Human Rights and Development Department ( email )

Wilders Plads 8K
Copenhagen K, 1403
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://www.humanrights.dk/staff/claire-methven-obrien

University of Dundee Law School ( email )

Park Place Scrymgeour Building
Dundee, DD14HN
United Kingdom

University of St. Andrews School of Management ( email )

The Gateway
St. Andrews, Fife KY16 9SS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/management/

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