Beyond the Guiding Principles? Examining new calls for a legally binding instrument on business and human rights
Author: Peter Muchlinski (Prof. of Intl. Commercial Law, SOAS) on Institute for Human Rights and Business, Published on: 15 October 2013
[B]efore the UN Human Rights Council, Ecuador led a group of states in questioning whether the UN Framework and UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights can be...effective unless an element of international legal obligation extends to corporations that fail to uphold human rights standards...Regarding any remedial mechanism, it is not clear from the proposal whether this should be a full judicial tribunal or something more like the existing UN Human Rights Committee...[A]case could be made for a new body...[G]iven the territorial limits of national law jurisdiction...an international body could exercise universal jurisdiction where alleged violations of fundamental human rights by TNC networks are involved...Enhancing national legal remedies would appear to be the more useful avenue for now, given the virtual impossibility of the Ecuadorian proposal being successful in the absence of consensus with the main home countries of TNCs...Regarding...clarifying the nature and scope of human rights obligations for corporate actors...an international instrument that sets down corporate responsibilities and liabilities in a more authoritative manner would be a genuine advance...The emphasis remains on national law based remedies...[An]...immediate aim might be to start the process of deliberation towards an international consensus-based instrument on what States can do through existing laws and procedures to bring corporate actors to book for human rights abuses in line with the UNGPs.