The Moral and Legal Necessity for a Business and Human Rights Treaty

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Author: David Bilchitz, Univ. of Johannesburg, Published on: 10 February 2015

"The Moral and Legal Necessity for a Business and Human Rights Treaty", Feb 2015

In the middle of last year, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution that establishes ‘an intergovernmental working group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights’…The voting patterns reflect (largely) a split between developed countries and developing countries…In this paper, I will outline four arguments…for why a treaty is necessary. The arguments all are rooted in a common normative understanding of fundamental rights and seek to ensure that they are accorded the importance they deserve in this increasingly globalized world…The emphasis throughout is also upon why a binding legal instrument is particularly important for international law, as opposed to softer forms of regulation. Having outlined the case for the treaty, I then turn to some of the difficulties identified by Ruggie. I attempt to show why none of these objections provides good reason to abandon the idea of a treaty as well as why it would be unfortunate to proceed with an alternative, more restrictive proposal for a treaty that only addresses ‘gross’ human rights violations.

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