Business & human rights: the future of corporate accountability for human rights violations in the extractive sector

2017-02-06T05:33:16Z (GMT) by Kapesa, Melba Ethel
The accountability for human rights violations by multinational corporations (“MNCs”) has been one of the most debated human rights issues of the last decade. Nongovernmental organisations, industry groups, governments and even businesses themselves have generated a plethora of recommendations on how best to respond to the negative human rights impacts created by MNCs that operate in States that are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens’ human rights. While there is broad agreement among these different stakeholders about the need for an effective regulatory regime, there is less agreement about the form that this should take. The landmark ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ framework proposed in 2008 by John Ruggie, the former Special Representative of the United Nations (“UN”) Secretary-General on the issue of business and human rights, followed in 2011 by its ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ (together, the “UN Framework”), has been hailed as the most significant and progressive instrument to date in the business and human rights domain. But, can the UN Framework be considered a game-changer in that it guarantees that victims of MNC human rights abuses are able to obtain effective remedy? This thesis will explore the causes, challenges and possible future remedies of MNC human rights accountability in three distinct ways. First, it will canvass the possible ways in which businesses affect the human rights of individuals and posit a theory of corporate accountability embedded in the fundamental value of human dignity. Secondly, it will evaluate major policy frameworks that purport to regulate MNC human rights responsibilities, including the newly launched UN Framework, with a view to exposing their (in)adequacy in addressing MNC human rights violations. Finally, it will suggest necessary reforms or alternative enforcement mechanisms, which could be used to enhance MNCs human rights accountability at the international realm with both voluntary and legal dimensions.