Commentary: Challenges to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses abroad

Author: Erika Schneidereit, Univ. of Ottawa, on National Magazine (Canada), Published on: 9 August 2017

“The challenges of preventing corporate human right abuses abroad”, 25 Jul 2017

…[T]he UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights…identified…three main areas for concern:

1. Domestic legal systems were not designed with multinational corporations in mind

…[M]ultinational corporations…operate across national borders, creating a challenge for domestic courts. 

2. National courts face difficulties in establishing jurisdiction over foreign subsidiary corporations

…[A] domestic court must find some jurisdictional link to foreign subsidiaries…[E]ven where a...court can establish jurisdiction, it may still decline hearing a case when it would be dealt with more appropriately in another jurisdiction…

 3. International law has struggled to impose binding obligations on corporations…

…[W]hile states can be held accountable for human rights violations…no equivalent body oversees the actions of corporations. Instead, corporations are subjected only to non-binding legal mechanisms such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

 The combined effect of these three factors leaves victims …with limited avenues for redress...

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