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Tides of Change – The State, Business and the Human

from Part IV - R2p and Due Dilligence Regarding the Conduct of Corporations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 September 2018

Kasey L. McCall-Smith
Affiliation:
Lecturer in Public International Law at the University of Edinburgh Law School
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

In recent decades, international law has witnessed an undeniable shift away from the traditional Westphalian structure that has long kept sovereign states masters of their own domains. Globalisation, advancing technologies and increased interconnectedness among people has ushered in a greater awareness of ‘foreign’ places, people and politics. The past decade in particular has seen remarkable evolution in the field of international law in relation to the protection of human rights, though much of the law reflecting this evolution is either soft law or only binding at the domestic level. Businesses formerly insulated by the cover of private law, are receiving greater attention for their role in human rights abuses, a field generally defined and defended by public law. Almost in parallel, the role of states in protecting human rights outwith their borders has also shift ed. Gone are the days when states simply looked the other way as the populations of another state suffered due to the neglect or offences of their government. A collective conscience has evolved – a conscience that no longer tolerates human deprivation and suffering at the hands of actors that were formerly ‘off -limits’ for the purposes of global human rights scrutiny. This chapter examines the expanding recognition of business as a human rights duty-bearer and how this expansion reflects the transitioning role of states through the responsibility to protect concept. The key to both developments lies in the need for states to focus on prevention by carrying out effective due diligence.

In terms of business, this shift in international law stems from the recognition that human rights are impacted by business activity. Since World War II, business actors have been recognised for their complicity in human rights abuses. In this context, complicity is the indirect involvement of business in contributing to another's abuse of human rights. In other words, business oft en turned a blind eye in order to yield more lucrative business outcomes.5 In other instances, business has been a direct abuser or an active co-conspirator.6 These realisations have awakened the international community, and principles of international soft law have been forged to combat these assaults on human dignity.

Type
Chapter
Information
Beyond Responsibility to Protect
Generating Change in International Law
, pp. 219 - 240
Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2016

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