Working Papers

Beyond the classroom
Author(s): Jolyon Ford

Blockbuster movies such as Blood Diamond or Avatar explore corporate responsibility themes in various ways. How might such popular culture products affect the emerging regulatory landscape on business-related human rights impacts and conflict-sensitive business practices? What role might popular culture -- in particular ‘big screen’ movies -- have to play in fostering greater awareness of, and business respect for, these norms and standards? Most scholarship on addressing the governance gap in these areas is directed to ‘supply-side’ factors -- how to design or improve legal, regulatory and policy initiatives. Scholars in the ‘business and human rights’ and ‘business for peace’ fields have focussed relatively little on insights as to the ‘demand side’ -- whether, how and to what extent consumer behaviour may be relevant in driving shifts in business practices or in complementing or demanding governmental action. This working paper explores a possible research agenda on how the nexus of business, human rights and peace is treated in pop culture, and what (if any) significance this might have to the universe of regulatory and other activity in this field. It asks how important pop culture might be in shaping a critical mass of informed consumers, a potentially relevant regulatory resource.

Centre: CIPL
Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy
Author(s): Kath Hall, Milton C Regan Jr, Georgetown University

This paper examines the growth of transnational governance, and what it means for business lawyers advising multinational corporate clients. The term “governance” incorporates the network of actors, instruments and mechanisms that now govern transnational corporations, separate from the nation state. It is reasonable to expect that lawyers play an important role in advising business clients on how to effectively operate within this system. Indeed, many transnational legal instruments are intended to enhance clients’ business goals by enabling them to engage more efficiently in cross-border commerce. Other forms of regulation, such as human rights regulation, purports to impose requirements on companies that go beyond what is necessary to enhance cross-border commerce. 

In this paper we discuss the transnational governance regime that has arisen to address the adverse human rights impacts of business activities. We focus in particular on the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. We ask what if any role is there for lawyers in fostering acknowledgment and fulfilment of these responsibilities among clients? Is the duty to respect human rights a “legal” obligation in any sense? If a lawyer does provide advice, should it encompass only legal risks to the company that fall within the lawyer’s traditionally defined specialized expertise? Or should it go beyond that to include other concerns?

Centre: CIPL

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