JURD7589 Business and Human Rights

Lecturer: Justine Nolan

What is the course about?
In a global economy, multinational companies often operate in jurisdictions where governments are either unable or unwilling to uphold even the basic human rights of their citizens. The expectation that companies respect human rights in their own operations and in their business relationships is now a business reality that corporations need to respond to.

This course examines the regulatory framework that grounds the business and human rights debate and highlights the business and legal challenges faced by companies and stakeholders in improving respect for human rights, exploring topics such as:

  • the relevance of human rights to business
  • challenges faced by companies and stakeholders in improving human rights
  • industry-specific human rights standards
  • current mechanisms to hold corporations to account
  • challenges of regulating global supply chains
  • future challenges for business and human rights

With a focus on examining in-depth and practically focused case studies throughout, this course provides an overview of current themes in the field and guidance on practical implementation, demonstrating that a thorough understanding of the human rights challenges faced by business is now vital in any business context.

Why does this subject interest you?
This course is taught by Assoc. Prof Justine Nolan. She has a long history of working and research in this field and has written the leading textbook in this area. Justine has worked for an international NGO establishing their business and human rights program, and worked with companies, the UN and a variety of NGOs to advance respect for workers worldwide.

How will this course be relevant in the future?
This course is ever-changing as new issues arise. For example, in 2016, companies have come under fire for their role in running Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres. Are these companies complicit in the abuse and torture of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island? Business and human rights issues are many and varied. For example, in 2015/2016 large companies such as Nestle and Costco have been accused of using slave labour in their supply chain. To what extent are the construction firms building Qatar’s stadium responsible for the deaths of workers on those sites? This course looks at both legal and non-legal means of ensuring greater corporate respect for human rights. Business and human rights issues now permeate the boardrooms of investment companies, consumer facing companies and banks. A modern lawyer needs to understand and be able to advise on corporate risk with regards to human rights.

There are currently plans for this course to be offered in an intensive mode during 2017 – 2 days classroom discussion, and the equivalent of 2 days online.