Enforcing the Business and Human Rights regime: Contributions from the Inter-American Human Rights System

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  1. Introduction

The purpose of the paper is to explore how the interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) by the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS) may contribute to the enforcement and implementation of business & human rights (BHR) norms and policies in states party to the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR).[1] The IAHRS has fostered legal and policy changes[2] in fields related to transitional justice, freedom of expression, political rights,[3] and prosecution of gross human rights violations at the national level,[4] among other fields.[5] We believe that, in parallel to the adoption of National Action Plans on BHR and the discussion of due diligence or forced labour legislation in the Americas, the IAHRS may contribute to shape state regulations and business conducts alike.

For almost 20 years, different bodies of the Organization of American States have addressed the impact of business activities on human rights.[6] At first, positive effects were identified and possibilities for replicating good practices were showcased.[7] However, as cases related to BHR were brought to the IAHRS, it showed significant negative impacts that were not being prevented or were not being remedied by states.[8] In recent years, the IAHRS has also acknowledged the role of private entities in the occurrence of such violations.

The IAHRS is progressively developing standards that recognize the region’s history, its need for development, while acknowledging the shrinking regulatory space of the state.[1] This all has its impact on the BHR field, particularly vulnerable groups that are most affected by business activities.[2]

The first part of the paper will oversee how the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) has incorporated BHR norms in its decision, particularly the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP).[3] The second part will look on how the expansion of the case law of the IACtHR towards the protection of social and environmental rights could impact the framing of BHR decisions within the IAHRS. We will conclude our paper with a brief identification of the cases that will be decided by the IACtHR in the next few years, particularly those related to Indigenous Peoples, the environment, arms trade and climate change.

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