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Spring 2024 Seminar

Business and Human Rights

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This seminar will operate as a lab and explore the growing field of business and human rights by examining live issues and pressing problems surrounding efforts to advance community-centric corporate responsibility and accountability. In recent years, a robust debate has emerged around the challenge of extending human rights norms to corporate actors. Historically, human rights advocates have focused on state actors, but as the reach and influence of private actors and companies has grown, their impact on human rights has become impossible to ignore. Today, the human rights movement has squarely engaged the private sector, marking a critical shift and raising a host of issues for practitioners.

The field of business and human rights now touches on a dizzying array of policy and legal areas, including company due diligence standards, judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms, relations between businesses and communities, extraterritorial application of domestic laws, supply chain systems, and whether there should be an international human rights treaty to regulate the conduct of corporations. The field now also includes a growing body of domestic and international standards and mechanisms, which are helping to define these policy and legal arenas as well as the precise scope of corporate human rights obligations.

The seminar will focus on community-centric approaches to business and human rights, and efforts to elevate community power and incorporate them into current legal and policy frameworks and legislation as well as company community engagement policies. The class will give students an opportunity to work with practitioners experimenting with current live problems in the field, including emerging due diligence standards. Throughout the seminar, students will work collaboratively in teams to explore such problems in particular contexts, while also reflecting on the implications of the issues for the field of business and human rights more generally.

A limited number of seats in the seminar are reserved for clinical students enrolled in the Human Rights Entrepreneurs and Incubator Clinic, which gives students the opportunity to work in a lab-like atmosphere to support entrepreneurs in start-ups as well as innovators within existing organizations as they translate their ideas for change into reality.