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CSRI’s work on the role of the state in business and human rights feeds directly into Professor Ruggie’s operationalization of the “state duty to protect”, the first pillar in his UN Framework for business and human rights described above. It currently comprises two main projects: on corporate law tools and on the extraterritorial scope of state duties. The latter is linked closely to CSRI’s work on access to judicial remedy.

(a)    Corporate Law Tools

Corporate law directly shapes what companies do and how they do it.  Yet its implications for human rights remain poorly understood.  Traditionally, the two have been viewed as distinct legal and policy spheres, populated by different communities of practice.  Nevertheless, in his 2008 and 2009 reports to the Human Rights Council, Prof. Ruggie highlighted recent developments which suggest that regulators and legislators are beginning to link corporate governance with management of social, environmental and ethical impacts, including human rights.

The Corporate Law Tools project is intended to build on that knowledge. 19 leading corporate law firms from around the world are helping Prof. Ruggie identify whether and how national corporate law principles and practices in over 40 jurisdictions currently foster corporate cultures respectful of human rights. The law firm reports will be made available on Prof. Ruggie’s website as they are completed and a summary report of the results will be published in Spring 2010. The law firm of Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP hosted a meeting of the participating firms in New York on 30 June 2009.  York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, with support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as local sponsors, convened an expert consultation in support of this project in November 2009 in Toronto.


Summary report for 2009 multi-stakeholder consultation on corporate law and human rights

Key documents:

Press release for corporate law tools project

Research template for corporate law tools project

Summary of 30 June meeting for corporate law tools project

See also relevant sections of the UN SRSG’s reports to the UN Human Rights Council and addenda

(b)        Extraterritorial Scope of State Duties

While the extraterritorial dimension of the UN Framework’s state duty to protect remains unsettled in international law, current guidance from international human rights bodies suggests that states are not required to regulate the extraterritorial activities of businesses incorporated in their jurisdiction, but nor are they generally prohibited from doing so – provided there is a recognized jurisdictional basis and that an overall reasonableness test is met. However, much work remains to be done in terms of identifying the appropriate legal and policy tools that states can or might use in this area.

This project aims to: (a) clarify the extraterritorial scope of the state duty to protect against corporate-related human rights abuse; and (b) draw lessons for the business and human rights realm from other relevant international legal regimes addressing transnational harms that also often involve companies.


Summary report of 2006 Expert Consultation on Extraterritorial Legislation as a Tool to Improve the Accountability of Transnational Corporations for Human Rights Violations

2007 UN Treaty Bodies series and related meetings and documents

See also relevant sections of the UN SRSG’s reports to the UN Human Rights Council and addenda

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