Rights incorporated : integrating human rights impact assessment into global business practices

Salcito, Kendyl Ruth. Rights incorporated : integrating human rights impact assessment into global business practices. 2014, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Science.

Available under License CC BY (Attribution).


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_11703

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Background: In 2011, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed a protocol dictating the role of multinational corporations towards human rights. What resulted, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, set forth a framework for corporations to proactively “respect” human rights. The responsibility to respect was reasoned to include: (i) policy statements; (ii) the conduct of “human rights due diligence,” to know and demonstrate that companies understand and manage their human rights impacts; and (iii) processes for hearing and addressing human rights-related grievances from affected people. This framework was embraced by the business, government and civil society communities, but it did not include detailed guidance on how it could be implemented.
Objectives: Four specific objectives were pursued in this PhD thesis: (i) to develop and advance tools and methods for human rights due diligence and, specifically, human rights impact assessment (HRIA) with the intention that these tools can be readily adapted to a variety of industries and contexts; (ii) to validate these tools at investment projects around the globe; (iii) to draw from existing environmental, social and health impact assessments and build on best practices while avoiding redundancy with environmental, social and health impact assessments; and (iv) to synthesise the experiences of HRIA practitioners, find commonalities and consider next steps.
Research partnership: These doctoral studies were carried out through a public-private partnership between the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), NewFields LLC and NomoGaia. NewFields is an international consulting firm with long-standing expertise in health impact assessment (HIA) in developing countries. NomoGaia is a global human rights think tank dedicated to making human rights due diligence a core practice for multinational corporations. Fieldwork for NomoGaia’s assessment served as a platform for the present research, while learnings from consulting work with NewFields clients informed the candidate’s understanding of issues.
Methods: This PhD thesis entailed fieldwork primarily at four investment projects in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America. Analysis was also informed by additional field experience through work with NewFields and NomoGaia. At each project location, HRIA tools were employed, modified, consolidated and validated. Follow-up monitoring at several locations contributed methodological developments for longitudinal “surveillance-response” approaches to HRIA.
Results: The culmination of fieldwork and desk-based analysis has resulted in a comprehensive depiction of HRIA in practice. The chapters that follow, as both published and working papers on HRIA, describe how HRIA can be conducted, and how its implementation can affect corporate behaviours. Each assessment conducted and analysed identified corporate impacts and risks not identified in other assessment. Each also documented positive changes in corporate behaviour over time. A key finding was the importance of longitudinal assessment, using initial HRIA as a benchmark for ongoing, periodic analysis of changing contexts and impacts. Because neither companies nor human rights exist in a vacuum, companies must be nimble and responsive to changes. By assessing the Kayelekera uranium mine repeatedly over five years, we identified contextual risks associated with HIV transmission that posed minimal threat during initial assessment but became significant as contextual conditions deteriorated. At the Uchindile plantation in Tanzania, we found that major improvements in housing and working conditions were limited to specific dormitories, making clear the necessity of broad assessment across operations. This was particularly relevant with regard to health, where improved access to care for one population was presented as a positive, but assessment found that decreased access to medical care for others outweighed those gains.
Conclusions/significance: The systematic HRIA approach that evolved over the three years of this PhD and the four preceding years of preliminary fieldwork represents a vital first step in the establishment of HRIA as a valuable corporate tool. Evidence-based, transparent, dialectic, responsive and holistic HRIA is increasingly seen as an appropriate approach to identifying and managing corporate human rights risks. Going forward, companies will need to embrace transparency to further validate HRIA and to demonstrate that affected rightsholders are entitled to know the human rights risks they face and to have a say in how they are managed. Governments can support this effort by mandating that companies conduct and publish HRIA for capital intensive projects planned within their jurisdiction.
Advisors:Utzinger, Jürg and Harrison, James
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) > Former Units within Swiss TPH > Health Impact Assessment (Utzinger)
UniBasel Contributors:Utzinger, Jürg
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:11703
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:1 Online-Ressource (xvi, 151 Seiten)
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Last Modified:22 Apr 2018 04:32
Deposited On:16 Mar 2017 09:44

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