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Integrating business & human rights in the Inter-American Human Rights System

"Integrating Business and Human Rights in the Inter-American Human Rights System," 21 April 2016

...The issue of corporate involvement in human rights abuses is not new to the Inter-American Human Rights System... However, during the last two decades increasing foreign investment, development projects, and extractive industries in the region have required the [Inter-American] Commission and the [Inter-American] Court [of Human Rights] to address the intersection of business and human rights, especially in the context of indigenous rights. This regional human rights system has begun to refine its guidance on state obligations including the duty to regulate and supervise corporations, in response to this trend. 

The Inter-American System, however, has only infrequently assigned specific obligations to corporations through its award of remedies. Civil society and victims of rights abuse have recently pushed the business and human rights agenda forward, and have sought more explicit recognition of corporate responsibilities in the work of the Court and Commission. These stakeholders have urged the Commission to further develop standards explicitly addressing corporations and to apply the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN GPs).

This article explores recent initiatives and key cases that have attempted to move beyond 'corporate social responsibility' rhetoric towards a 'business and human rights' agenda in the Inter-American System. Specific case law on corporations and the UN Guiding Principles is still lacking a robust presence, but the Inter-American System's initial steps do pave the way for future developments...

[This articles concludes that] [t]he [Inter-American] System needs to better apply the UN GPs and further explore their connection with the American Convention and Declaration. Within the case system the Inter-American bodies have the opportunity to address the impunity of corporations in the region... The Inter-American System's remedial approach is already distinguished among regional human rights systems. By developing remedies to redress the harms of corporations and hold them accountable, the System could significantly impact global legislation, policies and regulatory frameworks. [refers to Compañía General de Combustibles and Petroecuador]

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