At the intersection of commercial activities and human rights

Radu Mares researches at the intersection between globalization and human rightsSenior Researcher Radu Mares believes there is a great need for academic scholarship to theorise and make sense of the changing relationship between commercial activities and human rights. Radu Mares says his academic interest has always been at the intersection between economic globalization and human rights.

“The opening up of the international trade and investment brought opportunities for development as well as striking and repeated instances of irresponsible business conduct in weakly governed zones where people have the greatest difficulty claiming their human rights,” says Mares, an Associate Professor and Senior Researcher at RWI.

Mares says the field of business and human rights is exceptionally dynamic. “It is an exciting time for this field
because we’re starting to see the gradual emergence of new understandings, norms and regulations defining human rights responsibilities of companies,” he says.

In 2013, together with Ulf Linderfalk, a Professor of International Law from the Lund University Faculty of Law, he applied for and received a three-year research grant from the Swedish Research Council for a project on human rights due diligence.

It is a project that builds on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which were adopted in 2011. With the Principles, the first instrument of its kind in the UN, companies are expected to respect human rights by employing due diligence.

But the Principles have ambiguities and blind spots because they conceptualise corporate responsibilities without referring to legal theory, says Mares. This project will map and compare two main bodies of primary sources – international law and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – to identify the uses of due diligence in order to build a theory of a due diligencebased regime of CSR.

“We hope that our theory will support the original intention of the Guiding Principles to establish ‘a common global platform for action, on which cumulative progress can be built, step-by-step, without foreclosing any other promising longer-term developments,’ ” says Mares.

Mares believes there is a great need for academic scholarship to theorise and make sense of the changing relationship between commercial activities and human rights. Positioned between what he calls high level philosophy-infused treatments and the nitty-gritty of applied
research and tool-development, such scholarship should draw on previously separated academic disciplines in order to inform new business management and regulatory approaches that are able to effectively ensure Radu Mares respect for human rights.

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