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Beyond Voluntarism: Human Rights and the Developing International Legal Obligations of Companies

Beyond Voluntarism: Human Rights and the Developing International Legal Obligations of Companies

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Do private companies have a legal responsibility to respect human rights?
The debate on business and human rights is well underway. The “spotlight” of human rights concern, traditionally focused on governments, is now turned on the conduct of companies. Most discussion and campaigning, however, centres around voluntary initiatives, such as codes of conduct promoted by companies or NGOs. As the limitations of voluntarism have emerged, however, companies, campaigners and legal experts have started to look harder at international human rights law.
The private sector increasingly accepts that it has social and moral responsibilities. Can such commitments be anchored in international law? In the last 50 years the world’s governments, particularly through the United Nations, have agreed dozens of standards that define and guarantee basic human rights and freedoms. To what extent do these standards – originally aimed at states – create binding legal obligations on companies?

“It will constitute a significant contribution to the debate and will become a standard reference source.” Peter Muchlinski, Professor of Law and International Business, University of Kent, and author Multinational Enterprises and the Law

“This a valuable and challenging report, central to the current debate on the future role and responsibilities of companies in a more critical world. The arguments are set out with admirable clarity.” Sir Geoffrey Chandler, Founder-Chair, Amnesty International UK Business Group 1991-2001; former senior executive Royal
Dutch/Shell Group.
Do private companies have a legal responsibility to respect human rights?
The debate on business and human rights is well underway. The “spotlight” of human rights concern, traditionally focused on governments, is now turned on the conduct of companies. Most discussion and campaigning, however, centres around voluntary initiatives, such as codes of conduct promoted by companies or NGOs. As the limitations of voluntarism have emerged, however, companies, campaigners and legal experts have started to look harder at international human rights law.
The private sector increasingly accepts that it has social and moral responsibilities. Can such commitments be anchored in international law? In the last 50 years the world’s governments, particularly through the United Nations, have agreed dozens of standards that define and guarantee basic human rights and freedoms. To what extent do these standards – originally aimed at states – create binding legal obligations on companies?

“It will constitute a significant contribution to the debate and will become a standard reference source.” Peter Muchlinski, Professor of Law and International Business, University of Kent, and author Multinational Enterprises and the Law

“This a valuable and challenging report, central to the current debate on the future role and responsibilities of companies in a more critical world. The arguments are set out with admirable clarity.” Sir Geoffrey Chandler, Founder-Chair, Amnesty International UK Business Group 1991-2001; former senior executive Royal
Dutch/Shell Group.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: International Council on Human Rights Policy on Aug 09, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/29/2012

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Beyond Voluntarism
Human rights and thedeveloping internationallegal obligations of companies
 
The International Council on Human Rights Policy
 The International Council on Human Rights Policy was established in Genevain 1998 to conduct applied research into current human rights issues.Its research is designed to be of practical relevance to policy-makersin international and regional organisations, in governments andintergovernmental agencies, and in voluntary organisations of all kinds. TheCouncil is independent, international in its membership, and participatory inits approach. It is registered as a non-profit foundation under Swiss law. Additional information about the Council, and other research projects it isundertaking, may be found at the end of this document.
 
Beyond Voluntarism
Human rights and the developing internationallegal obligations of companies

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