Transnational Corporations, Accountability, and International Human Rights Mechanisms




Moore, Paola L.

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This thesis explores the development and efficacy of international human rights mechanisms in respect to holding transnational corporations culpable for human rights violations committed as a direct result of their operations. When it comes to holding transnational corporations (TNCs) accountable for violating human rights, there appears to be a gap between rhetoric and reality in international law. What are the international regulatory mechanisms that have been implemented to ensure transnational corporations abide by universal human rights as outlined in the UDHR, and how effectively have they been enforced? One of the problems with addressing grievances against TNCs is that as non-state actors they are not legally culpable under existing international treaties. To this day any preemptive actions taken by TNCs are done so on a voluntary basis. Intergovernmental organizations are increasingly setting standards to regulate corporate conduct in the area of human rights. Though not legally binding, soft law is “generally understood to encompass nonbinding norms that govern behavior.” Critics claim that such principles are too general and ineffective, whereas proponents assert that soft laws often lead to the establishment of norms and rules, or “hard” laws, set forth by these non-binding codes. Arguably one of the largest corporate human rights offenders is the oil, gas and mining industry, also known as the extractive sector. Through the in-depth analysis of two case studies in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, this paper will determine how existing normative human rights standards and legal mechanisms have been applied, what the results were in each case and how they differed. I will comparatively analyze what has been done to hold TNCs accountable for human rights abuses in the past, what is currently being done—and how. Furthermore, these cases will help identify deficiencies in the system, and suggest future alternatives.



Human rights, Extractive industry, Corporate accountability, Transnational corporations, International