Handbook on Human Rights Impact Assessment
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Handbook on Human Rights Impact Assessment

Edited by Nora Götzmann

Human rights impact assessment (HRIA) has increasingly gained traction among state, business and civil society actors since the endorsement of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by the Human Rights Council in 2011. This timely and insightful Handbook addresses HRIA in the context of business and human rights.
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Chapter 25: The use of impact assessments by governments and businesses: Questioning purpose and utility

James Harrison


This chapter focuses on the adoption of human rights impact assessment (HRIA) as a policy instrument utilized by governments and businesses in relation to: (1) international trade agreements; and (2) business projects and activities. It argues that the underlying objectives of HRIAs in these fields should be to increase knowledge about relevant human rights issues and accountability for international human rights obligations. However, empirical investigation conducted by the author into the practice of HRIAs reveals fundamental problems that make achievement of those objectives unlikely. The chapter therefore considers actions to improve the chances that HRIAs achieve their underlying objectives. Such actions include initiatives that introduce mandatory requirements in relation to the HRIA process (e.g., that HRIAs must be published). They also include greater focus from academic and policy communities on: (1) what is feasible through any HRIA process; and (2) overcoming issues of (perceived) partiality of assessors.

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