Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Sarah Joseph and Adam McBeth
Chapter 6: Human Rights in Economic Globalisation
Adam McBeth 1 Introduction In Chapter 4 of this volume, Robert McCorquodale gives an overview of the evolving position of international human rights law in terms of the responsibilities of entities other than states. McCorquodale highlights the problems of a system that was conceived on the assumption that states can and do control the activities of entities operating within their respective territories, and which therefore freely ignores the actions of non-state actors in seeking to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights and to prevent and punish human rights violations. Nowhere is the fallacy of that assumption more apparent than in the context of economic globalisation. In today’s globalised economy, there are many different types of entity that are capable of operating across borders and transcend the regulatory capacity of any one state. Many of those entities, such as multinational corporations, international financial institutions and development banks, engage in activities that can have profound effects, both positive and negative, on human rights. Corporations, for example, have an obvious and direct potential to impact labour rights, both positively and negatively, through the way in which they treat their workers, including the provision or denial of reasonable rates of pay, reasonable conditions of work, a safe and healthy workplace, nondiscrimination, freedom of association and the right to organise. They can also have profound effects on the human rights of the communities in which they operate, for instance in the way land and water is acquired, by causing serious pollution which can...
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