Human Rights Law Centre

Impacts of Business and Human Rights on Public International Law

The University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre hosted a conference on 'Impacts of Business and Human Rights on Public International Law' on Tuesday 29 March 2022 with panel discussions and international guest speakers in honour of Professor Robert McCorquodale, University of Nottingham. 

Robert is Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Nottingham. He was formerly also Head of the School of Law. Robert has published widely in the area of business and human rights, including by empirical research, and has advised business of all sizes, assisted governments around the world, been involved with civil society, industry and organisations in drafting legal changes and in litigation, as well as capacity building. Robert has appeared as an advocate before the International Court of Justice and the United Kingdom Supreme Court, and as a legal expert before United Nations bodies. He is a barrister and mediator at Brick Court Chambers, London, and the Founder of Inclusive Law, a consultancy on business and human rights

Business and Human Rights as a field encompasses many areas of law, from domestic criminal, tort, contract and corporate law to private international law and comparative law, as well as other disciplines, such as business management, business ethics, sociology and economics. In addition, it is relevant in many fields of public international law, including international human rights law, international investment law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international environmental law, international organisations law and the law of the sea.

The conference explored the impacts of business and human rights on public international law. The impacts considered were to challenge core principles of public international law, such as the sovereignty of states and international legal personality, and impacts in the application of public international law in different situations, including the attribution to states of corporate activity, its use in domestic law and what is a breach of international law in diverse contexts.

Discussions also covered the impacts of business and human rights on specific areas of international law, such as international human rights law, international investment law, etc. The rapid development of business and human rights has also raised issues about what is public international law, to whom it applies and how it is enforced.


Session one - BHR Impacts on PIL – Views from Asia-Pacific Regions 

Chair: Marko Milanovic, University of Nottingham

Surya Deva, Macquarie University, Sydney/Hong Kong - Direct Human Rights Obligations of Corporations

Justine Nolan, UNSW, Sydney - Injecting the Human into Public International Law via the Lens of BHR

Sarah Joseph, Griffith University, Brisbane - Vaccine Inequity as a Window to Corporate Power

Gabrielle Holly, Danish Institute of Human Rights, Copenhagen/Perth - How BHR has Changed the Use of International Human Rights Law in National Law.


Session two - BHR Impacts on PIL – Views from Europe-Africa Regions 

Chair: Klara Polackova Van der Ploeg, University of Nottingham

Michael Addo, Notre Dame University, London - Public International Law Challenges for BHR in Africa

Markus Krajewski, University of Nurnberg, Germany - “Finally an ‘Organ Of Society’? Rights and Obligations of Transnational Corporations: And yet She is Moving, isn’t She?

Tara Van Ho, Essex University, Colchester - BHR Lessons for the Arms Trade

Lise Smit, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London - The Mystery of the Assumed Host State Jurisdiction: A South Africa-UK Case Study


Session three - BHR Impacts on PIL – Views from Americas Regions 

Chair: Sandra Frisby, University of Nottingham

Penelope Simons, University of Ottawa - Gender, History and BHR: Is it Changing International Law?

Doug Cassel, King and Spalding, New York - BHR and the IFC: Compatible Acronyms?

Erika George, University of Utah, Salt Lake City - US Supreme Court: Corporate Rights but No Responsibilities?

Humberto Cantú Rivera, University of Monterrey, Mexico - Impact of Business and Human Rights on the Content of State Obligations in Regional and National Law

Anita Ramasastry, Washington University, Seattle - The Impact of BHR on Anti-Corruption Commitments and Mechanisms



Human Rights Law Centre

School of Law
University of Nottingham
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