Please join us for the latest Essex Business and Human Rights Seminar, hosted by the University of Essex Human Rights Centre
Empirical scholarship on business and human rights is still relatively rare. Professor Harrison explores why such scholarship is critical to an informed evaluation of existing human rights initiatives and to improved systems of protection in the future. In this seminar, he will present findings from two empirical research projects to support these arguments. In the first study, Professor Harrison investigated whether grievance mechanisms in multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) provide effective remedy for corporate human rights violations, using quantitative and qualitative analysis of six grievance mechanisms in multi-stakeholder initiatives. The research finds that key characteristics of each grievance mechanism as well as the contexts in which they operate significantly affect human rights outcomes. But even the most successful mechanisms only manage to produce remedies in particular types of cases and contexts. The research also finds that it is prohibitively difficult to determine whether ‘effective’ remedy has been achieved in individual cases. Drawing on these findings, Professor Harrison reflects on the future potential and limitations of MSI grievance mechanisms within broader struggles to ensure business respect for human rights.
In a second study, Professor Harrison explores practice in HRDD on the basis of interviews with practitioners who undertake HRDD for corporations. Interviews reveal how HRDD is an incredibly complex and multifaceted process. There are many differences of approach and challenges to good practice which beset the field and currently undermine standards, casting doubt on whether HRDD processes are routinely uncovering and addressing the most serious human rights issues as they affect rightsholders. While mandatory HRDD laws will increase adoption of HRDD by companies, there are dangers that the steep increase in practice this will create, will pose even greater challenges to robust and meaningful HRDD processes. Professor Harrison reflects on the action needed from those responsible for mandatory HRDD initiatives.
James Harrison is a Professor in the School of Law at the University of Warwick. He is Co-Director of the Centre for Human Rights in Practice. He is also one of the editors of Lacuna Magazine . He is an advisor to the UK Government on trade and sustainability issues. He has previously worked as a practicing solicitor and researcher for a range of civil society organisations. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of international organisations including the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Article 19, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation and the Scottish Human Rights Commission. In 2011 he was awarded the Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence (Butterworth Award).
Professor Sheldon Leader (Essex Law School, Emeritus Professor)