Category Archives: international law

Borderless Business and Human Rights

In the distant past, global commercial enterprises usually acted in concert with the powers that be at home. It was required by their charter. So, British trading interests developed into the British raj. But these days, commercial entities operate globally on their own and for their own purposes. They are disconnected to a large degree. So that folks may complain, for example, about¬† their using “tax inversion”, one cannot complain that — absent money laundering or transfer pricing concerns — moving profits across borders abroad to lower taxes is a violation of law even if it may not be in the national interests of the home country.

This applies to how commercial interests treat people as well as how they account fro their income. At least in some cases, transnational corporations appear to have acted in ways that are … shall we say … dreadful from a human rights perspective. I refer to engaging in murder, torture, property expropriation, this sort of thing.

Should they be more accountable at home? It is an interesting question. And so far, the answer from the US Supreme Court is “no”. But one senses that this debate is not over. Le Monde Diplomatique offers a thoughtful overview.

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Ralph Zacklin: International Law over Time

As lawyers, we are used to the idea that law changes.  We get new legislation and court decisions that refine our understanding of how norms work. But we tend to think less of how law changes in a meta sense. How legal institutions are either strengthening or not. These are givens. Ralph Zacklin argues that the institutional framework that supports application of public international law is strengthening. He may be biased, as a long time UN Official. But his views are interesting.