A paradigm shift in the attribution of responsibility for women’s human rights violations by transnational corporations

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201508063161
Title: A paradigm shift in the attribution of responsibility for women’s human rights violations by transnational corporations
Author: Somero, Marika Katariina
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2014
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201508063161
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/135363
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: International law
Kansainvälinen oikeus
Folkrätt
Abstract: Globalisation has reconfigured the territoriality and sovereignty, which has traditionally been associated with states. Economic actors, such as transnational corporations, have become powerful actors within the world’s economy and they are increasingly using their economic power to influence the actions of states. Transnational corporations business operations also directly affect the enjoyment of human rights by individuals, especially women. One such case which is considered in this thesis involves a textile manufacturing plant in Jordan called Classic, which produces clothes for some of America’s biggest retailers. The case involves allegations of sexual and physical abuse by the factory’s management against the factory’s female workers. As the case will demonstrate, transnational corporations are increasingly escaping liability for abuses which happen within their corporate structures and supply chains. Due to the power shift which has taken place in the last few decades, states are finding it increasingly more difficult to control the acts of non-state actors. Especially developing nations are often unable to regulate against the powerful transnational conglomerates, due to their economical dependence on the corporations presence in the country. Although international law is directly applicable to states, and most states sign up to international human rights conventions, international human rights law, as it currently stands, does not impose direct human rights obligations on corporations. Also, there are only limited circumstances when states can be held liable for the acts of non-state actors. As a result, the current human rights paradigm suffers from severe governance gap, which is rooted in the statist nature of international law. To address this shift in power dynamics, the thesis examines how the duty to protect individual’s human rights and the responsibility to respect human rights is distributed between states and transnational corporations. This thesis addresses this problem from two fronts: firstly, the thesis examines the current position of non-state actors within the international human rights structure and explores how states can be held liable for human rights violations which are committed by non-state actors, including transnational corporations. States duty to take positive steps to protect individuals within their jurisdictions are examined. International law has adopted a due “diligence” doctrine to address state responsibility in this context. To this end, the thesis reviews the development of the due diligence principle under international law and more specifically under women specific human rights instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. Jurisprudence of the European and Americas human rights courts as well as treaty bodies’ deliberations which interpret the due diligence concept are examined. Secondly, international law typically leaves states to regulate corporations via domestic law provisions and international law permits states to enforce international human rights norms against corporations under domestic law. Thus, states can hold corporations criminally and civilly liable for human rights violations under domestic laws, however, corporations do not currently have general obligations under international human rights law. To address this, the thesis examines recent attempts to establish direct human rights responsibilities on corporations within the international human rights system. The UN Draft Norms and John Ruggie’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework are explored in this context. Both frameworks highlight that corporations have specific duties to respect human rights and the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework provides practical guidance for corporations in discharging this responsibility. The thesis concludes that recent decent developments domestically and internationally are increasingly contributing towards a paradigm shift within the international human rights law system, which is beginning to recognise that states as well as corporations have their distinctive roles to play in protecting human rights.


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