- Code LAWS8254
- Unit Value 6 units
- Offered by ANU Law School
- ANU College ANU College of Law
- Course subject Laws
- Areas of interest Interdisciplinary Studies - Sustainability, Development Studies, Law, International Business, Human Rights
- Academic career PGRD
- Prof Jolyon Ford
- Mode of delivery Online or In Person
Winter Session 2021
See Future Offerings
This course aims to provide an advanced understanding of how law and regulation relate to current debates about corporate responsibility and business respect for human rights standards. What would constitute an ideal regulatory and remedial framework on the human rights impacts of business activity? What commercial, political or social forces and factors shape these issues in practice?
Delivered online, this course analyses the source, nature, content and practical significance of legal, regulatory, self-regulatory and other frameworks governing the ways in which business actors and activities might affect human rights. Framed by an understanding of the position in public international law, the course turns mainly on the significance of the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, while addressing the range of regulatory options.
From law suits for alleged corporate complicity in apartheid and other grave crimes, to examples of voluntary business leadership on addressing human trafficking, this course combines a commitment to objectivity and conceptual clarity with an emphasis on robust and informed student exchange. Approaching from a legal and regulatory perspective, the course addresses complex, controversial issues such as allegations of rights abuse in global food or manufacturing supply-chains; how global telecoms companies manage customer service in repressive states; and extractive industry stakeholder relations in conflict-affected regions. Through practical case studies students will be exploring the nexus of two of the most profound social and regulatory phenomena of our time: economic globalisation, and the international human rights narrative.
The course is of relevance to policymakers, regulators, corporate and financial executives, those in civil society, the media, and the legal profession. Any contemporary study of international relations or international law is incomplete without going beyond states to consider the influence of transnational business and investment actors. Likewise, the private sector operates in a public world so that business scholars must factor in the increasing salience of corporate responsibility and accountability issues. Meanwhile, governmental actors are not the only source of human rights promotion: what positive role exists for the private sector?
The course emphasises transnational commercial networks and regulatory responses, but makes some reference to Australian scenarios. Through moderated discussions and with occasional guest expert input, students navigate some key issues. How can business activity affect the enjoyment of human rights? How effective are existing regulatory responses, and what undermines these? What is the role for business self-regulation, and what is the state’s duty to control the social impacts of a business operating abroad? What avenues of remedy exist or could or should exist? Should we pursue a binding treaty in this field, how likely is this, and what would it include? What particular responsibilities accompany investment decisions in repressive or conflict-affected states?
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Explain, distinguish and apply, to an advanced standard, the terms, theories and concepts, global frameworks and major recent debates in the field of business and human rights;
- Explore, analyse and synthesise complex theoretical positions and propositions at an abstract level using cognitive, technical and creative skills, and apply these to practical, ‘real-world’ scenarios, in contexts relating to business and human rights;
- Identify and apply relevant research, problem-solving and argumentation skills appropriate to addressing controversies and complexities arising in the field of business and human rights, including through participation in moderated group discussion forums and completion of succinct and accurate written work.
- Communicate theoretical and practical knowledge about how course concepts relate to their other professional or academic work, and show an advanced ability to reflect critically on this process;
- Demonstrate an advanced ability to independently plan and produce a substantial research project in the field of business and human rights, analysing and critiquing issues covered in the course.
- A research project of 4,500-5,000 words; and (65) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
- An online quiz (10%), a short advice (10%), and participation in online discussions (15%). (35) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
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Classes offered in non-standard sessions will be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (approximately 26 hours of face to face teaching). The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours. Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have 3 contact hours per week.
Click here for the LLM Masters Program timetable.
Requisite and Incompatibility
Prescribed TextsThere is no prescribed textbook.
Preliminary ReadingDeva, S., and Bilchitz, D., (eds) Human Rights Obligations of Business: Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect? (Cambridge University Press, 2013);
Ford, J., ‘Business and Human Rights: emerging challenges to consensus and coherence?’ Briefing Paper, Chatham House, February 2015;
Ford, J., ‘Business and Human Rights: bridging the governance gap’ Research Paper, Chatham House, September 2015;
IHRB, ‘State of Play: Human Rights in the Political Economy of States’ (Institute for Human Rights and Business, London, 2014);
Lagoutte, S., 'The State duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses — unpacking pillar 1 and 3 of the UN Guiding Principles’ (Danish Institute for Human Rights, 2014);
Mares, R., (ed.), The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Foundations and Implementation (Martinus Nijhoff, Leiden, 2012);
Nolan, J., ‘Refining the Rules of the Game: the corporate responsibility to respect human rights’ (2014) 30(78) Utrecht Journal of International and European Law 7;
O’Brien, C., Human rights and Transnational Corporations: a multi-level governance approach, (European University Institute, Florence, 2009);
Ruggie, J., Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (Norton, New York, 2013);
UK Government, Good Business: implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (London, 2013);
UN ‘Roles and Responsibilities of Interested States’, OHCHR Working Paper 2 (Geneva, April 2015);
Zerk, J., ‘Corporate Liability for gross human rights abuses’ (OHCHR, Geneva, 2014).
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