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Global Human Rights Law and the Boundaries of Statehood

STIAS Workshop

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Colloquium hosted by the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study


Conveners: Hans Lindahl & Daniel Augenstein ( Tilburg Law School)

Scientific Content

One of the virtues of the more recent ‘business and human rights’ debate – most prominently the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) endorsed by Human Rights Council in June 2011 – is that it has documented in considerable detail the significant impacts that global business operations have on human rights protection in the international legal order of states. On the one hand, global business operations erode the substance of legal authority that states wield over their territory, thus diminishing their ability to protect human rights within their own borders. On the other hand, they amplify the human rights impacts of states’ business-related domestic laws and policies on individuals in other states, and enhance states’ opportunities to use their ‘corporate nationals’ to pursue foreign policy objectives. From both perspectives, the exposure of the international order of states to the human rights impacts of global business operations appears to undermine the normativity of the state-centred conception of international human rights law. In response, many approaches to ‘global’ human rights protection suggest – whether explicitly or implicitly – a radical departure from human rights law’s state-centred heritage. As human rights impacts escape the state’s public and territorial authority, new private and trans-national human rights regimes emerge that fly under the radar of the state legal order yet contribute to further undermining the hegemony of its (constitutional and international) human rights law. The principal aim of the present colloquium, by contrast, is to inquire how legal human rights responses to violations committed in the course of global business operations transform the boundaries of statehood constitutive of the international order of states. According to the received wisdom of international law, each state is primarily entitled and obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of individuals located on its own territory in relation to acts of its own public authorities. It is therefore suggested that, as a starting point of inquiry, the boundaries of statehood in relation to international human rights law may be usefully conceptualised on the basis of two sets of distinctions: between the public and the private; and between the territorial and the extraterritorial. Moreover, both sets of distinctions appear intimately connected: the boundaries between the ‘public’ and the ‘private’ are determined in relation to a political collective that is internally bounded by the territorial state legal order and externally re- presented in states’ international relations with each other.

Research Questions

The central research question to be addressed by the colloquium is how a transformation of the boundaries of statehood may contribute to recovering the public and political nature of human rights law beyond the international order of territorial states. The colloquium shall address this research question along five complementary lines of inquiry:

  1. The place of international human rights law between territorial state sovereignty and global business  operations
  2. De-centring human rights from the international order of states
  3. Global human rights protection between ‘public’ and ‘private’ power and authority
  4. The relationship between international human rights law and the protection of global public goods
  5.  From territorial human rights government to global human rights governance


Programme of the Colloquium

Day 1 (Friday,27March 2015)

09:3010:00               Coffee & Welcome

10:0010:30               General Introduction

10.3012.30                Panel I: The place of international human rights law between territorial state
sovereignty and global business operations

The Temporal Rivalrie so fHuman Rights( Fleur Johns)

Boundarie sand Borders in International Law and some new emergent Geographies of
Injustice (Upendra Baxi)

12.3014.00                Lunch Break

14.0016.00                De-centring human rightsfromtheinternationalorderofstates

The Human Rights Obligations of Corporations and the Evolving Conception of the State
(David Bilchitz)

De-centering Human Rights from the International Order of States (Radu Mares)

16.00-16.30                Coffee

16.3018.30                Panel III: Global human rights protection between ‘public’ and ‘private’ power and

Global Human Rights and the Boundaries of Statehood (Sheldon Leader)

The Investor-State Regime and the Reconstitution of Public and Private Authority in the
Global Political Economy (Claire Cutler)

20.00                             Reception &Dinner


Day 2  Saturday, 28 March 2015)

09:3010.00               Coffee

10.00-12.00               Panel IV:International human rights law and the protection of global public goods

Human Rights and Global Public Goods (Neil Walker)

To whom it may concern: International Human Rights Law and Global Public Goods
(Daniel Augenstein)

12.00-13.00              Lunch Break

13.00-15.00              Panel V: From territorial human rights government to global human rights

Fractured Territories and Abstracted Terrains: Human Rights Governance Regimes Within and
Beyond the State (Larry Catá Backer)

Authoritative Collective Action and the “Social License to Operate” (Hans Lindahl)

15.00-16.00              Coffee & Concluding Remarks



Date and time

Friday, 27 March 2015 —
Saturday, 28 March 2015

09:30 – 16:00​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


No location.

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