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Fall 2022 Seminar

Business and Human Rights Seminar: Evolution and Contemporary Challenges

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This seminar will explore the expanding practice around business and human rights, departing from its origins and moving into current challenges that demand urgent intellectual investigation. First, we will explore the state of the international human rights movement after the fall of the Berlin wall in order to understand the context in which the field of business and human rights came into being, originally nested by the United Nations as part of its efforts in to implement the Millennium Development Goals. The original reports by John Ruggie on the subject initially received negative reactions by business leaders, but eventually achieved almost universal acclaim. Only a few years after the now famous “Framework” and “Principles” on business and human rights were made public in 2008 and 2011, the field became a central part of contemporary discourse on both human rights and corporate governance. Second, we will examine the results of such evolution, such as, the expansion of domestic legislation on business and human rights throughout the world imposing mandatory due diligence processes in companies, the trend towards global collective litigation of human rights violations, and the adoption of business and human rights arguments in international arbitration. The final part of the program will be dedicated to investigating problems that practitioners in the field are currently facing, such as the increase of human rights violations in wealthy countries due to the rise of economic inequality, the persistence of companies that openly challenge the implementation of human rights policies, the advance of legal authoritarianism in certain jurisdictions with challenges to free speech, increases in hate speech and algorithmic discrimination in social medias, and evolving forms of “greenwashing” and “socialwashing.” In order to examine these new topics, students will have the opportunity to interview leading experts in the field during classes. Students will write a research paper based on the interviews and materials presented in the seminar, as well as their own independent research.