Multinational Enterprises and Human Rights

Multinational Enterprises and Human Rights

Obligations under EU Law and International Law

Alexandra Gatto

This well-researched book examines how the European Union could do more to ensure that EU-based multinational enterprises (MNEs) respect human rights when operating in third world countries. Alexandra Gatto identifies the primary obligations of MNEs as developed by international law, and investigates how the EU has promoted the respect of human rights obligations by the MNEs to date.

Chapter 3: MNEs and International Human Rights Law

Alexandra Gatto

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, law - academic, european law, human rights, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights


3.1 INTRODUCTION The question of how human rights obligations apply to MNEs will be tackled here. The scope of MNEs’ responsibility has not been defined yet in international law. Therefore, this analysis draws upon the responsibility of States and the responsibility of individuals in international law. A brief critical overview of trends in international law regarding the expansion of States’ responsibility in the private sphere, the rise of individual duties and direct soft law obligations on companies will be provided. Neither category of responsibility seems to be adequately equipped to cope with MNEs’ behaviour. However, the fast-moving changes in this area demonstrate that international actors (both State and non-State) acknowledge that this subject is not only one of international concern, but one in which more legal developments are desirable. 3.2 THE EXPANSION OF STATE RESPONSIBILITY IN THE PRIVATE SPHERE: THE HORIZONTAL APPLICATION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW The traditional approach to human rights law commands that human rights protect the individual against the State. Protecting human rights solely through prohibitions imposed on governments seems rather uncontroversial if States represented the only threat to human dignity, or if States could be counted on to restrain conduct within their borders effectively. However, this doctrine was developed at a time when international business was less prominent and international economic interdependence was far less important. In addition, the host States’ goals have recently shifted to attracting foreign investment. Host States have adjusted domestic laws to make them more attractive to corporations or simply turned...

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