Libertatem Magazine

Multinational Corporations and Human Rights Violations: Beyond Voluntarism

Contents of this Page

“Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow”

– Abraham Lincoln

Business and its key stakeholders are responsible to share the duty of each other, yet this obligation is fundamentally fiscal in nature. This fiscal relationship just incorporates the benefit as a key characteristic to characterize it.[1] The partners i.e. investors, workers, proprietors, providers, wholesalers, and society take a distinct fascination in securing each other’s stake in business yet the intriguing term needs others’ conscious character.[2] Because of this, void the human character regardless of the possibility that abused goes, unattended and unheard.[3] This thusly uneven characters the relationship that exists amongst business and its key partners whereby the general public and its individuals feel the warmth of disregard and history has got a number of cases in its lap to display this age a test, an inquiry to introspect that where lies the obligation, who to share this duty, the key recipients of business finished results and appropriate check and adjust the framework to assess the business thought processes. On worldwide front International measures, tending to business and HR have started to rise as of late, with a coupling universal administration yet to be created.”

Corporate scandals highlight two significant distinctions: that between corporate and white-collar offending and that between corporate and directorial responsibility.[4] Transnational corporations are both accused of direct human rights abuses and of colluding in various ways with repressive states. Because of the normative implications of this task many writers have drawn on complicity, a notion widely recognized in systems of criminal jurisprudence. It is not so much the marriage of criminal law principles and international legal philosophy but the adoption of the corporation as a fully accepted member of the ‘legally responsible’ family that represents the greatest obstacle here.[5] National jurisdictions are either reluctant to or encounter difficulty in using criminal sanctions to corporations. For most, criminal law applied to individual human agents is altogether a more attractive enterprise. The causes for this are both conceptual and (broadly) politicians.”

MNCs and humans have a deep connection which results to human rights.[6] The relationship can be understood as: Employment generation, Proper use of idle resources, Technical development, Improvement in standard of living, Promotion of international brotherhood and culture, Danger for domestic industries, Repatriation of profits, No benefit to poor people, Misuse of mighty status, Careless exploitation of natural resources, Danger to Independence, Disregard of the National Interests of the Host Country. These, both act as pros & cons when comes into the relationship between MNC and HR.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that ‘every organ of society’ – a term which possibly includes MNCs – ‘shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms’. However, this statement is only contained in the preamble, which has not hardened into customary international law. For the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee has explicitly stated that it does not have a direct horizontal effect, while the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights observed with regard to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that ‘private enterprises [are] not bound by the Covenant’. Art. 1 of the ECHR binds only the ‘high contracting parties [to] secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of this Convention’.[7]

There is no binding obligation for the protection of human rights by MNCs which is one of the major subjects of criticism. A gap that has been created between the MNC and HR is a major concern and is the priority to fill it with proper codes and regulations.[8] If the safeguarding of  HR is left totally to the states: initially, due to the uneven status of acknowledgment of human rights instruments in the different wards; second, on account of their dissimilar authorization, which is firmly associated with the quality of the residential lawful framework and the reliance on a remote venture of the particular states. Another significant ground for feedback is the ‘administration hole’, which comes about because of the error between the energy of MNCs to seriously hurt human rights and the powerlessness of local officials to take compelling measures in this regard. Some lawful researchers have likewise scrutinized the one-sidedness of global HR law which gifts MNCs critical rights and advantages without holding them at risk for manhandle. There are, be that as it may, not just worries about the compelling insurance of human rights standards. Observers have likewise brought up, that organizations endure noteworthy hindrances because of the legitimate vulnerability of the present administration. Organizations can bring about expanded expenses and manage reputational harm when they are measured by human rights guidelines by which they are not even lawfully bound. Different methodologies have been proposed to consider organizations responsible under universal human rights law.[9] It has been contended that MNCs ought to bring about a direct obligation for human rights abuses. One of the activities to this impact was the drafting of the UN Draft Norms on the duties of transnational enterprises and other business enterprises with regard to human rights which will be treated in more detail below.”

UN Drafts Norms On The Responsibilities Of Transnational Corporations And Other Business Enterprises With Regard To Human Rights

The Draft Norms on the duties of transnational companies and different business ventures with respect to human rights (Draft Norms) were an aspiring endeavor to make restricting global human rights commitments for MNCs.[10] Drafted by a working gathering under the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and embraced in 2003 as a determination by the last mentioned, they were dismissed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR)[11], which expressed in unequivocal terms that the draft had ‘not been asked for’ and had ‘no lawful standing’. Despite the fact that the essential duty of states was perceived, MNCs were obliged to ‘advance, secure the satisfaction of, regard, guarantee regard of and protect an expansive scope of human rights. Usage measures incorporated the selection, spread, and execution of interior guidelines of operation, occasional revealing obligations and also checking and confirmation by the UN. Notwithstanding, the Draft Norms have been scrutinized for just forcing on MNCs human rights instruments which are routed to states.[12] Aside from the flawed lawful reason for this move and ensuing difficulties, it was moreover expected that such an approach may bring about a weakening of state obligation and aside from the flawed lawful reason for this move and resulting down to earth troubles, it was moreover expected that such an approach may bring about a weakening of state obligation and a weakening of sovereignty. Extensive criticism led to the defection of the task and to the readjustment of international efforts.”

Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9

At the 26th session[13] of the Human Rights Council, Ecuador and South Africa mutually tabled a draft determination that accommodated the foundation of an open-finished intergovernmental working gathering (‘IGWG’)[14] on transnational partnerships and other business endeavors regarding human rights. The command of the IGWG includes the elaboration of a coupling human rights instrument, overseeing the exercises of MNCs and different business endeavors. The draft was co-sponsored by Algeria, Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Senegal, and Venezuela and it was adopted as Resolution 26/9 by 20 votes to 14, with 13 abstentions.[15] Among the no voters were the United States, Japan, South Korea, and the EU Member States. The advocates of the determination contended, that while the Guiding Principles could be considered as an initial step, a simply intentional worldwide system was eventually deficient to give the casualties of corporate human rights mishandle with the important legitimate security, especially given the regularly powerless level of restricting national direction. The rivals of the determination alluded to the achievement of the Guiding Standards, the use of which would be debilitated through the re-opened troublesome discourse on a coupling instrument.[16] They focused on the significance of national usage designs and the wrongness of a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

The OECD Guidelines For Multinational Enterprise

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are an arrangement of non-official proposals for capable business directs that taking an interested government deliver to MNCs which work in or from their region. The first Rules were received in 1976, with the expectation to enhance the remote venture atmosphere by fortifying participation among the OECD Member States and decreasing the troubles emerging from the operations of MNCs. An overhauled form embraced in 2000, prescribed MNCs to ‘regard the human privileges of those influenced by their exercises’ 124 out of the blue. The most recent amendment in 2011 extended this proposal by presenting a whole part of human rights. Reverberating the arrangements of the Guiding Principles, it demands MNCs regard human rights, maintain a strategic distance from causing or adding to unfavorable human rights effects, deliver and look for approaches to avert or relieve these effects, have an arrangement sense of duty regarding regard human rights, complete human rights due to ingenuity, and accommodate remediation of antagonistic human rights impacts. The 2011 correction likewise acquainted another approach with mindful production network administration, broadening the Guidelines past the quick operations of the MNCs to their relations with e.g. subcontractors or franchisees. Execution of the Guidelines lies in the hands of the following states, the MNCs, the National Contact Points (NCPs)[17], and the Investment Committee.[18] Each following the state is required to set up an NCP, entrusted with advancing the Guidelines, dealing with a request, and unraveling debate. Their part, which has not been consistently successful, was upgraded by the 2011 correction. On the off chance that an issue emerges under the Guidelines, they will add to its answer by making an underlying appraisal, offering great workplaces, and distributing the aftereffects of the methodology. On the off chance that vital, they are helped by the Venture Committee which likewise gives counsel on the elucidation of the Rules. The result of these methods is, nonetheless, essentially non-official also, the names of the organizations included are normally not unveiled with a specific end goal to ensure secret data. Their impact has in this way been described as ‘business as opposed to lawful’.[19]

ILO Tripartite Declaration Of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises And Social Policy

The ILO Tripartite[20] the revelation of standards concerning multinational undertakings and social strategy is a non-restricting instrument that was embraced after tripartite transactions amongst laborers’ and bosses’ associations and state governments in 1977 and has since been changed twice in 2000 and 2006. Reacting to worries about work norms and social issues, the declaration contains standards on business, preparing, states of work and life, and mechanical relations, which ‘governments, bosses’ and laborers’ associations and multinational endeavors are prescribed to see on a willful premise’.[21] Without accommodating a grumblings system like the one under the OECD Rules, the Declaration just imagines occasional studies keeping in mind the end goal to quantify its adequacy and an elucidation procedure, whereby the gatherings may submit demands for translation to the ILO.”

Global Compact

The Global Compact is a ‘soft law’[22] policy activity for organizations which intentionally resolve to regard and bolster ten principles in the zones of human rights, work, the condition, and against debasement, got from the UDHR, the ILO’s Declaration on Key Principles and Rights at Work, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Advancement and the UN Convention Against Corruption. The Global Compact[23] was declared by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 1999 and was formally propelled in 2000. Today it checks more than 10,000 members from more than 130 nations, making it the biggest non-restricting corporate obligation activity around the world. Organizations need to present a yearly provide details regarding the execution of the ten standards,[24] which, be that as it may, isn’t liable to any survey instrument and has thusly been marked an unimportant ‘advertising exercise’. Supporters have commended its commitment to bringing issues to light for the basic issues, be that as it may, faultfinders censure the absence of observing and review, both for potential and current applicants.”

In light of the above discussion, it can be concluded that the concept of Corporate Human Rights is in a nascent stage, especially in the developing nations. The MNC has already got privileged by the International laws. There are times when MNC has caused tremendous loss to human life by causing the environment or crimes against them. Looking into the current scenario as well as future prospects, India is in dire need of model law that must govern the big MNCs coming all together to set up in the regions.”

Following are the ways from which the corporate human violations can be controlled:

Firstly, there must be separate legislation for this, not only CSR as a whole. The corporations must follow the legislation of the nations where they incorporate the companies. As in India, there is only a part of CSR given in the Companies Act, 2013 but no separate legislation is made. Secondly, a strict rule and norms shall be made mandatory, unlike the other local norms of the nations which are generally ignored. Thirdly, strict penalties must be imposed on MNC, if any damages caused by them. Fourthly, international as well as national forums shall be created for solving the grievances and to claim the damages caused to the victims and a speedy trial must be insured.”


[1] Isha Sharma, Neelu Sharma, Business and Human Rights Violation unnoticed cases in Indian as well as global context, 2014, Volume 3, Edition 6, published in International Journal of Economics, Finance, and Management.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ratna Kapur, From Human Tragedy to Human Rights: Multinational Corporations Accountability for Human Rights Violations, 1990, Volume 10, Issue 1 (Boston College Third World Law Journal).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Elisa Giuliani, Multinational Corporations Economic and Human Rights Impact on Developing Countries: Review and Research Agenda, 2013 (Discussion paper).

[7] See: [PDF] European Convention on Human Rights – European Court of Human … p5, last seen 13/07/2020.

[8] Ibid.

[9] See, Human Rights, United Nations,, last seen on 13/07/2020.

[10] Jan Wouters, Anna-Luise Chane, Multinational Corporations in International law, Feb 2015,, last seen on 13/07/2020.

[11] The United Nations Commission on Human Rights was established in 1946 to weave the international legal fabric that protects our fundamental rights and freedoms.

[12]  Ibid.

[13] General Assembly, United Nations, 26/9 Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, 14/07/2014, last seen 14/07/2020.

[14]  Ibid.

[15]  Ibid.

[16]  Ibid.

[17]   NCPs assist enterprises and their stakeholders to take appropriate measures to further the observance of the Guidelines. They provide a mediation and conciliation platform for resolving practical issues that may arise with the implementation of the Guidelines.

[18] The OECD Investment Committee is tasked with the interpretation and implementation of the Guidelines. It monitors the functioning of the Guidelines, provides a forum for discussion as well as for dispute resolution, offers recommendations and issues reviews and analyses. The Committee was established in 2004, merging the former Committee on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises (CIME) and the former Committee on Capital Movements and Invisible Transactions (CMIT).

[19]  Ibid.

[20] Tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy (MNE Declaration) – 5th Edition, March 2017,–en/index.htm, last seen on 14/07/2020.

[21]  Ibid.

[22]  Soft law refers to guidelines, policy declarations, or codes of conduct which set standards of conduct.

[23]  See, Global Compact, United Nations,, last seen on 14/07/2020.

[24]  Ibid.

This Article is written by Swatilina Barik, post graduated from National Law University, Nagpur in the year 2018 as in Corporate Laws. Currently, practising as an Advocate at the Hon’ble High Court, Nagpur Bench and other forums. Founder of VR Associates & Legal Consultancy, Nagpur. I love travelling and a big foodie. Other than my profession, I like to art with waste materials. is now on Telegram. Follow us for regular legal updates and judgements from the court. Follow us on Google News, InstagramLinkedInFacebook & Twitter. You can also subscribe for our Weekly Email Updates. You can also contribute stories like this and help us spread awareness for a better society. Submit Your Post Now.

About the Author