Regulating MNCs and International Norms: Challenges in Focusing on a Human Rights Approach in Emerging Markets and Possible Alternatives

Authors: Samuel E. Ojogbo Published date: 15-07-2017 Status: Published

The increase in global activities of multinational corporations (‘MNCs’), especially the involvement of extractive MNCs in emerging markets, has been a source of human rights concern in recent years. This is because of the impact of corporate activities on the human rights of the local communities where they operate. The rising corporate impunity for human rights violations has been attributed to the lack of access to judicial remedies for human rights victims and the inadequacy of existing regulations available to rein in global MNCs. This has led to suggestions, especially by human rights scholars, to explore the human rights obligations of corporations under international human rights law as a means for promoting corporate accountability for human rights, with a focus on emerging markets. This paper challenges this view and argues that reliance on international human rights law as a regime for promoting corporate accountability in emerging markets is misplaced, because enforcement of international human rights law depends on municipal institutions, and the institutions available in emerging markets are weak, corrupt, and inefficient. The rampant violation of human rights has begun to generate conflicts which threaten local, national, and global security, such as the situation in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. This paper argues that the growing distrust between MNCs and local communities, which is mostly responsible for the insecurity in the region, could be addressed through a legal regime that focuses on promoting moral behaviour from inside the corporations. Therefore, this paper proposes a review of the corporate legal architecture to incorporate the interests of those affected by corporate activities, especially the local communities, into the corporate governance structure as a strategy for promoting responsible and human rights friendly decision-making and for them to hold MNCs to human rights standards rather than relying on international human rights law itself.

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