Multinational Corporations and the Realisation of
Economic and Social Rights
Although the traditional view of human rights law concerns the relationship between the state and the individual, increasing attention has been focused on private actors and their effect on human rights. Private actors have duties under international law. This has been confirmed through judicial decisions and treaty interpretation, and highlighted by academic commentators. Concerning the realisation of social and economic rights, the Multinational Corporation (MNC) is the private actor that is most relevant.
The MNC is an established and adaptable entity. The MNC benefits from the doctrine of neo-liberal economics as well as the “home and host” state quagmire, which combines with limited liability and decentralised decision-making to allow for double standards in human rights promotion to take place internationally. Furthermore, the polices of organisations such as the World Bank, the IMF, the OECD and the WTO, have allowed the MNC to gain a position of considerable influence on economic and social agendas. The corporate sector is extremely influential with national governments. MNCs use this influence to coerce governments to become “more competitive” by implementing national policy conducive to attracting international business. Often this means a decline in socio-economic reform.
This article considers the close relationship between the operations of multinational corporations and the realisation of social and economic rights. The MNCs’ uniquely powerful and influential position within the international community gives rise to contradictory capabilities. This position can be used to promote or undermine social and economic rights, which will either enhance or inhibit the development of an international community based on stable local communities. This article examines the obligations of host nations...