Transnational (or multinational) corporations have been characterized both as „engines of development“ and „engines of exploitation“. Both these seemingly contradictory expressions describe properties of transnational corporations that have a direct bearing on the adherence and implementation of human rights. Even though States are the primary duty bearers of human rights obligations, transnational corporations are important players in the field of human rights. Their activity can significantly affect the enjoyment of human rights, both in the positive and in the negative.

The course addresses the various issues and problems relating to the respect and support of human rights by transnational corporations. It focuses on the duty of transnational corporations and other business enterprises to protect and support human rights and the available enforcement mechanisms. Moreover, it discusses existing international business standards, voluntary agreements and enforceable norms. Furthermore, cases where transnational corporations have been held liable for human rights violations will be analyzed and the possibilities of international and domestic laws to address these human rights violations will be explored. Finally, the course addresses the methods of formulating and implementing corporate social policy and international norms and discusses which rights should be incorporated in a code of conduct for transnational corporations.


Instructor: Prof Dr. Martina Caroni, LLM