In recent years, a robust debate has emerged around the challenge of extending human rights norms to corporate actors. This clinical seminar will explore the fast growing field of business and human rights, highlighting the most critical legal and practical issues surrounding efforts to advance corporate responsibility and accountability. Historically, the legal and activist human rights communities have focused on state actors, with concerns about private actors left to other fields. As the reach and influence of companies has grown--often dwarfing the states in which they operate--their impact on human rights has become impossible to ignore. Today, the human rights movement has set its sites squarely on the private sector, marking a critical shift and raising a fascinating set of legal and practical issues.
The legal debates around business and human rights are struggling to keep pace with work on the ground. Human rights have become the currency of major brands, helping determine Citigroup investments, Exxon-Mobil relations with communities, and working conditions along the Wal-Mart supply chain. Shareholder activists are demanding greater transparency and reporting on human rights, and human rights, development, and environmental NGOs have turned their attentions to these issues, while an industry of legal and management consultants has sprung up to guide companies on human rights practices. The UN, OECD, and multilateral banks have adopted human rights standards for companies, and a growing body of soft and hard law (domestic and international) is beginning to define the precise scope of corporate human rights obligations. The seminar will be divided into three sections:
1. Background: The economic, political and social background that has spurred and shaped the current field of business and human rights, including issues of corporate power and influence, human rights impacts, and civil society developments;
2. Legal challenges: The legal challenges to defining and regulating corporate human rights obligations, including concepts of complicity, sphere of influence, extraterritorial jurisdiction, home state responsibility and corporate structure/supply chains.
3. Implementation: The current legal and practical efforts to advance corporate responsibility and accountability for human rights obligations, including voluntary standards, reporting protocols, multi-stakeholder initiatives, multilateral oversight and domestic litigation.
The course will count on a range of institutional and expert supporters as both clinical placements and class speakers. A clinical practice component is required of all students.
A Fall clinical practice component is required of all students. Clinical placements are with the International Human Rights Clinic of the Human Rights Program (http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/hrp/). Enrollment is through clinical registration. Please refer to the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs website (http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/clinical) for clinical registration dates, early add/drop deadlines, and other relevant information.