Business and Human Rights: Energy and extractives in a changing landscape of new generation trade agreements protecting and promoting both trade and human rights -
As allegations of genocide, forced labour, or widespread abuse of minorities in various countries fill the airspace daily, consumers, shareholders, and governments are increasingly paying heed to business practices abroad. In the EU and its member States, new national and Union measures are being discussed; human rights concerns are the subject of discipline and disputes under bilateral and regional trade agreements; there is a push for a global “business and human rights” (BHR) framework.
This renewed concern for human rights in trading relations builds on sparse but robust existing scaffolding. In international law, specific provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1947 (GATT 1947) already addressed prison labor; in the early 1990s, labor and environmental concerns were incorporated in two side agreements of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). BHR-compliance has already been an important element of global business positioning for certain market players: the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), for example, set out requirements for controlling rough diamond production and trade, responding to a strategic necessity of a responsible “conflict-free” production of rough diamonds.
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