Law, Business and Human Rights

Law, Business and Human Rights

Bridging the Gap

Edited by Robert C. Bird, Daniel R. Cahoy and Jamie Darin Prenkert

The intersection of business and human rights contains substantial economic, social, and political implications. Global business enterprises and civil society groups must establish a constructive and meaningful dialogue in order to work cooperatively to protect human rights. In this innovative book, the authors explore the role of firms in respecting human rights and explain the need for a better understanding of the human rights of affected stakeholders. The goal is to draw attention to these issues and generate common ground between two potentially disparate and conflicting interests.

Chapter 3: Human rights and a corporation’s duty to combat corruption

Norman Bishara and David Hess

Subjects: business and management, business ethics and trust, corporate social responsibility, law - academic, human rights


In the last decade, the debate over corporations’ human rights obligations has become a central topic in the fields of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and international law. Developments such as the United Nation’s Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights in 2003, and lawsuits filed against corporations in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) (sometimes called the Alien Tort Claims Act) for alleged human rights abuses abroad, led to the United Nations appointing John Ruggie as a Special Representative for Business and Human Rights (U.N. Commission on Human Rights Subcommittee, 2003). In 2011, the U.N. Human Rights Council endorsed his recommendations, which were promulgated as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General, 2011). These principles have been well received and established corporations’ obligation to “respect” human rights. During this same time, combating corruption in international business was also gaining prominence. The major developments included the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions coming into force in 1999, and then the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2005. Of more direct importance to the business community is the U.S. Department of Justice’s increased enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the last several years through well-publicized settlements and guilty pleas of major corporations, such as Siemens, Daimler AG, and Pfizer.

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