Prof. Linda C. Reif authors new book chapter on business and human rights

Reif offers expertise on the role of national human rights institutions in global business law

Lauren Bannon - 09 May 2022

The Faculty of Law’s CN Professor of International Trade and Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) Linda C. Reif has authored a chapter in the recently released Global Governance, Business and Human Rights.

This book addresses international law, domestic laws and remedial mechanisms that respond to contemporary issues arising out of the human rights impacts that global businesses cause or are complicit in. These impacts include poor working conditions, use of child labour or forced labour and the displacement of communities by foreign investment projects.

National human rights institutions are state-mandated bodies that are independent of the government that play a crucial role in promoting, protecting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are a set of guidelines for States and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations.

Reif’s chapter "Business and human rights: what role for National Human Rights Institutions?" looks at how National Human Rights Institutions can implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights through their various human rights protection and promotion mandates.

According to Reif, national human rights institutions can promote these principles by investigating individual complaints; undertaking own-motion investigations or public inquiries; launching court actions; advising government and business; being included in national action plans on business and human rights; and providing business and human rights research, education, training and public awareness-raising.

“A lot of commentators focus on the courts as the remedial mechanism for responding to the negative impacts on human rights caused or contributed to by businesses,” said Reif. “ I hope that readers of my chapter recognize that there are other non-judicial remedies in the business and human rights sector that also have supporting roles to play here.”

“In particular, while national human rights institutions generally have soft powers, they have additional mandates that courts do not have that can assist in preventing business and human rights problems, mitigating their negative impacts and providing other types of remedies.”

Reif’s chapter also discusses contemporary issues, and new and emerging directions for research on national human rights institutions, business and human rights.