There is ample reportage to evidence the negative effects business activity of all types can have on the provision of human rights. Equally, there can be little doubt economic development, usually driven through business activity and trade, is necessary for any state to provide the institutions and infrastructure to secure and provide human rights for their citizens.
The United Nations and businesses recognise this tension and are collaborating to effect change in business behaviours through voluntary initiatives such as the Global Compact and John Ruggie’s Guiding Principles. Yet voluntary approaches are evidently failing to prevent human rights violations and there are few alternatives in law for affected communities to seek justice.
Additionally, there is an ever-increasing pressure for corporations, governments and financial institutions to continually pursue profit to perpetuate economic growth, creating a motivation for those institutions to participate in risky economic behaviour. Risk-taking in pursuit of profit can lead to financial crises and a reduced ability for governments to realize social and economic rights for their citizens.
The Human Rights Consortium’s Corporate Power and Human Rights Project has been established to propagate creative approaches to dissolving the tension between human rights and business activity. The project will act as a platform from which academics, activists, businesspeople and policymakers can transmit their ideas and engage their peers to robustly challenge their feasibility in order to develop meaningful alternatives to existing approaches. It will also look at the broad structural impacts of corporate power on economies and human rights provision.
The Corporate Power and Human Rights Project hosts conferences, workshops, seminars, and other events to facilitate research and creative thinking to develop solutions to these new human rights challenges.
A special Corporate Power and Human Rights issue of the International Journal of Human Rights is currently being put together. Please click here for more details.
Dr Damien Short
Nicholas Connolly, 'Corporate social responsibility: a duplicitous distraction?', The International Journal of Human Rights, Volume 16, Issue 8, 2012, Special Issue: New Directions in the Sociology of Human Rights.