Below is the abstract for an essay I wrote during the first term of the human rights MA at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. While some of my views have changed slightly with regards to the recommendations I make in the conclusion, it seemed more appropriate to publish the original piece of research rather than amend it. The rest of the paper and the bibliography can be found in the comments section.
In a context of rapid economic globalisation the legal personification of corporations has resulted in the dehumanisation of people, negatively impacting on the realisation of their basic economic, social and cultural rights. This paper will begin by looking at how the demand for cheap goods and labour has resulted in an opportunity for transnational corporations (TNCs) to exploit workers so as to meet these demands. The impact on the realisation of their labour rights will be explored. The right to water and its flippant waste by TNCs internationally will then be considered. Finally gene patenting will be analysed to further demonstrate the impact of corporate power on the realisation of the right to health. These three issues are particularly interesting because they show how corporations impact negatively on the realisation of human rights relating to one’s livelihood (labour exploitation), what humans need to survive (water) and what the human body is made up of (genes). Legally binding obligations are necessary to regulate the actions of TNCs. Only when the global market has a ‘human face’ (Elson, 2004, p.60) will TNCs support rather than undermine the realisation of human rights (ibid.). The UN Global Compact is a step in the right direction but is not enough.