The paradorx of precision future trajectories for the linkage between business and human rights
We are coming to a crossroads in the on-going project of linking human rights standards to business activity. The project can move along one of two different paths. One is to keep the commitment to human rights protection relatively general and programmatic. It calls for broad adherence to the standards but only enters into specifics reluctantly. The details of what is required of a business on any given occasion are often left to ordinary principles of management. On this first path, human rights principles open a door to victims, but do not guide them after they go through the door so that they can raise concrete objections to a piece of behaviour. Sometimes human rights law does regulate business actions at the required level of detail, but on this first strategic path these occasions will be rare. On the second, alternative, strategic path human rights play a far more detailed role in dealing with particular situations. This essay indicates several examples of such a role. It argues that the first path promises impasse between business and human rights advocates, and a severe loss of enthusiasm for the project on both sides. The second path is the one that will make a future for the linkage between business and human rights a viable one, ultimately capable of generating support from all who wish the project to move forward and to gain the momentum it needs.
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Sheldon Leader, ‘Human Rights and the Constitutionalized Corporation’ in Multinationals and the Constitutionalization of the World Power System edited by Stephane Vernac, et al (Ashgate Publishing Ltd.:2016).
Sheldon Leader, ‘Human Rights, Risks, and New Strategies for Global Investment’ 9 Journal of International Economic Law 657-705 (Oxford University Press: 2006).