Corporate Violations

After at least 40 years of prevarication and debate, the United Nations Human Rights Council is finally developing a new treaty designed to hold corporations accountable for their human rights violations.  There is a long way to go before this treaty is agreed since, as Stefanie Khoury and David Whyte’s new book, Corporate Human Rights Violations, shows, the process has a long and fractious history.  The book develops an analysis of the historical, political and legal contexts behind international demands for binding mechanisms for corporate accountability and argues that those demands are characterised by a constant tension between the neo-colonial politics of the Global North and the post-colonial politics of the Global South that date back to the 1960s.

In order to analyse the prospects for using human rights law to challenge the impunity with which corporations author human rights violations, the book explores the uses of tort law to deal with transnational corporate human right violations in domestic courts, the uses of human rights law at the European Court of Human Rights and at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the efforts of the OECD process to provide redress for corporate human rights abuses.  The book finds strong empirical evidence that those mechanisms do not offer a meaningful challenge to corporate power, but ultimately support the dominant right of corporations to accumulate profit un-interrupted.  The book is unique in the sense that it is the first to consider the empirical evidence of each of the various global legal processes that deal with corporate human rights violations and place these in the context of the historical development of international political efforts in the UN.

A summary of the argument in chapter 6 of the book can be found in an article published in The Conversation here.

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