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Should international human rights law be extended to apply to multinational corporations and other business entities?

Espinoza, SA; (2015) Should international human rights law be extended to apply to multinational corporations and other business entities? Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

International human rights law (IHRL) has traditionally only imposed duties on states. But as multinational corporations (MNCs) and other business entities are perceived as increasingly powerful agents in the global economy, and capable of impacting on many of the interests protected by IHRL, scholars as well as practitioners argue that IHRL should be extended to apply to these entities. My argument in this thesis is twofold. Firstly, I make the normative case that calls for business accountability under IHRL misunderstand the particular role of IHRL, taking the point of IHRL as protecting important human interests against anyone who has the capacity to harm these interests. I argue that the role of IHRL is better understood as holding states accountable for the performance of their special institutional duties. If we were to extend international human rights duties to business entities, many of the core principles of IHRL would need to be changed which in turn would undermine the very identity of this body of law – it would no longer fulfil the distinct function of regulating political authority. I argue that it would impoverish our legal vocabulary if we were no longer able to express the distinction between state violations of human rights and harm done by private actors. And secondly, I argue that there are a number of practical challenges to extending IHRL to business entities, and that the implementation mechanisms of IHRL are currently not well-suited to address many of the concerns that give rise to calls for business-human rights-accountability in the first place. I conclude that an extension of IHRL may therefore not be the straightforward and effective solution that it tends to be made out in the current debate and that alternative approaches to business regulation may be preferable.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Should international human rights law be extended to apply to multinational corporations and other business entities?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: international human rights law, human rights, multinational corporations, TNCs, MNCs, corporate social responsibility
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1460404
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