Securing human rights through risk-management methods: Breakthrough or misalignment?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This is a study of three authoritative instruments that promote a common idea: economic activities and development should be conducted with respect for human rights. The World Bank Framework, the International Financial Corporation Performance Standards and the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights are examined to get clarity on how human rights risk management differs from more conventional management approaches. The focus here is on prevention of human rights impacts. Do the three instruments employ approaches adequate for handling human rights risks? To understand prevention, one needs to reflect on what makes human rights a particular type of impact and account for the regulatory context of protecting human rights transnationally. The analysis identifies four 'offsets' through which economic decision-makers can distort their human rights performance and place causal observers at a disadvantage. Prevention becomes an issue of how to relate to 'residual impacts' on human rights. This article finds that the 'hierarchy or mitigation' and even 'human rights due diligence' under illuminate the challenge. The proposal here is to add 'reduction at source' as a parameter of human rights risk management. The sources for this analysis are the three instruments, and the practice of implementing organizations, particularly IFC projects, CAO cases, impact assessments, and CSR reports. In conclusion, the potential for cross-fertilization among instruments is genuine. Increased clarity on prevention of human rights impacts should assist economic decision-makers in their risk management task and casual observers in assessing their performance.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law (excluding Law and Society)
  • Ethics

Keywords

  • corporate accountability, impact assessment, multinational enterprises, prevention, UN Guiding Principles
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-535
JournalLeiden Journal of International Law
Volume32
Issue number3
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes