Special Issue "Business, Human Rights and Sustainable Development"

A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 November 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Mara Tignino

Faculty of Law, University of Geneva/Geneva Water Hub, Switzerland
Website | E-Mail
Interests: water; human rights; international humanitarian law; dispute settlement; environment law; armed conflicts

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

International negotiations regarding funding for development and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development have put into sharp focus divergent opinions on two points: Which responsibilities should be borne by poor countries to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and which commitments must be taken by rich countries in the context of the cooperation for sustainable development? There is, nevertheless, a large consensus on the role of the private sector: All stakeholders agree that non-state actors play an essential role for the economy. Even in developed countries, the private sector represents more than 90% of job creation and allows communities to fund—through taxes—public services and social institutions. The 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the 2030 Agenda agree that the private sector must collaborate with states and international organizations to fund economic, environmental and social projects. This cooperation is vital to achieve the objectives of the post-2015 Agenda while respecting international agreements and standards on human rights. Some of the questions raised by the relationship between the Agenda 2030, private companies and human rights include: (1) What are the challenges and opportunities posed by the 2030 Agenda to strengthen the role of the international instruments and standards on business and human rights? (2) Are there any obligations of the private sector to achieve the SDGs? (3) Which mechanisms are available to ensure the implementation of SDGs?

I would like to invite you to submit a contribution to the Special Issue on “Business, Human Rights, and Sustainable Development” of Laws.

The focus of the Special Issue is on the relationship between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the private sector. The 2030 Agenda explicitly mentions the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This is a significant recognition of the role of this instrument in the context of sustainable development. Some of the questions are whether the UN Guiding Principles establish obligations for corporations in the achievement of the SDGs and what are the mechanisms available to monitor their implementation and to ensure access to remedies in case individuals and communities are affected by economic projects.

The scope of the Special Issue is broad including various perspectives such as legal, economic and political science ones, dealing with the linkages between sustainable development, private sector and human rights. Over the years, the content of the concept of sustainable development has been clarified and developed. This concept has a strong dimension on public participation. In this context, a significant example is the 1998 Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. The involvement of individuals and communities in decision-making processes, access to information, transparency, access to justice and remedies are also human rights which are part of the duty of diligence of States but also of corporations.

There is still scant literature on the relationship between business, human rights and SDGs. Although the achievement of SDGs plays a crucial role in the activities of international organizations and other actors, the dimension of human rights in their achievement should still be explored. This Special Issue aims at filling this gap contributing the reflection on SDGs.


R. Altholz, C. Sullivan, Accountability & International Financial Institutions. Community Perspectives on the World Bank’ Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, International Human Rights Law Clinic, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, 2017.

L. Choukroune, “Corporate liability for human rights violations: the Exxon Mobil case in Indonesia” in M. Faure and A. Wibisana (eds.), Regulating Disaster, Climate Change and Environmental Harm, Lessons from the Indonesian Experience, Edward Elgar, 2014, pp.56-78.

S. Deva and D. Bilchitz (eds), Human Rights Obligations of Businesses: Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

D. de Felice, “Measuring the Effectiveness of Grievance Mechanisms: Between Key Performance Indicators and Engagement with Affected Stakeholders”, Measuring B&HR (blog) (London School of Economics, 2014), http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/.

O. de Schutter, “Towards a New Treaty on Business and Human Rights”, Business and Human Rights Journal, Vol 1, No. 1, 2015, pp. 41-67.

M. Fasciglione, “The Enforcement of Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence: From the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to the Legal Systems of EU Countries”, Human Rights & International Discourse, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2016, pp. 94-116.

C. Lopez, B. Shea, “Negotiating a Treaty on Business and Human Rights: A Review of the First Intergovernmental Session”, Business and Human Rights Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1, 2015, pp. 111-116.

H. Peter, G. Jacquemet, “Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainable Development et Corporate Governance: quelles corrélations?”, Revue suisse de droit des affaires et du marché financier, vol. 3, 2015, pp. 170-188.

J. G. Ruggie, “Business and Human Rights: The Evolving International Agenda”, American Journal of International Law, 2007, Vol. 101, No. 4. pp.819-840.

Zurich Competence Center for Human Rights, Thun Discussion Paper for Banks on Implications of Principles 16-21 signed by four European Banks (i.e. Barclays, BBVA, Credit Suisse AG, ING Bank N.V., RBS Group, UBS AG, and UniCredit). Thun Discussion Paper for Banks on Implications of Principles 16-21, 2013, http://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/thun-group-discussion-paper-final-2-oct-2013.pdf

Dr. Mara Tignino
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Laws is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Business and human rights
  • Multinational corporations
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Environment
  • Non-State actors

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Seemingly Connected, Obviously Separate: The Parallel Realities of the UN Global Compact and the Multilateral Regimes in Water Governance
Received: 21 July 2018 / Revised: 21 October 2018 / Accepted: 29 October 2018 / Published: 5 November 2018
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The UN Global Compact, being an institutional innovation in global governance, invites businesses to voluntarily commit to a selection of principles, rooted in multilateral regimes. Such commitment is expected to improve business practices and by that to close gaps in global governance. This
[...] Read more.
The UN Global Compact, being an institutional innovation in global governance, invites businesses to voluntarily commit to a selection of principles, rooted in multilateral regimes. Such commitment is expected to improve business practices and by that to close gaps in global governance. This spawns an expectation that through UN Global Compact business and multilateral treaty regimes will engage in mutually fertilizing and potentially coherent interaction to overcome the shortfalls of global governance. The current paper looks into this alleged interaction in the field of water stewardship and access to water. It explores first, the conceptual interdependence of the UN Global Compact and multilateral regimes in the respective fields and second, the ways in which the business practices reported under the UN Global Compact contribute to the advancement of the rules and principles thereof. The paper finds that the traditional multilateral systems and the innovative governance platform share an identical conceptual narrative but exist as separate realities on operational level. From the latter perspective the UN Global Compact might risk deepening governance gaps rather than close them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Business, Human Rights and Sustainable Development)

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