Kampala Geopolitics Conference

Business and Human Rights, Defining a New Business Ethic for a More Equitable Relationship?


Despite the emerging popularity of the “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) concept, big businesses remain at the center of manifold accusations of human rights abuses. Often blamed for their “green washing” or “pink washing” practices, the need for international and national regulations seems to grow. In 2011, the UN developed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – which outlines states’ obligation to safeguard human rights from the negative effects of commercial activity, businesses’ obligations to respect human rights, and the imperative for both states and businesses to offer effective remedies when damage occurs.

France has developed a National Action Plan (NAP) following the UN guidelines, but the extraterritorial capacity for regulation of such a framework remains quite limited.

In June 2021 the German parliament passed a new law that will require large companies to conduct supply chain due diligence activities. The law requires these companies to identify, prevent and address human rights and environmental abuses within their own and their direct suppliers’ operations.

In July 2021, the government of Uganda adopted its first NAP on Business & Human Rights providing a regulative framework for the private sector activities.

How are new regulatory frameworks changing the nature of business? Are they capable of creating enough constraints for companies to adopt sustainable business practices that respect human rights? What mechanisms could be envisioned both at the national and international levels to monitor practices and implement relevant measures?

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