The positive and negative human rights impacts of non-state actors

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David, Nicolas
Dowell-Jones, Mary
Footer, Mary
Kenner, Jeffrey
Mustaniemi-Laakso, Maija
Nolan, Aoife
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This report on the positive and negative human rights impacts of non-state actors (NSAs) is the first deliverable in Work Package 7 (WP7), ‘Engagement with Private Actors, TNCs and Civil Society’, of the FP7 project, ‘Fostering Human Rights among European Policies’, FRAME.1 It is essentially a mapping exercise to identify and analyse positive and negative human rights impacts of NSAs consistent with Task 1 in the description of work for WP7. The human rights impacts of four main vertical groupings of NSAs are mapped: 1) the double-edged role of businesses, including trans-national corporations (TNCs) and financial services, in creating opportunities for advancing individual human rights, but also their corporate social responsibility for human rights violations; 2) the contribution of civil society, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and stakeholders representing the interests of women, minority groups and children, in protecting and promoting human rights; 3) the increasingly important influence of dynamic international financial institutions (IFIs); and 4) the role of human rights defenders (HRDs) in identifying human rights abuses and building trust. Human rights impacts of each of these groups of NSAs are analysed horizontally by reference to areas including, inter alia, the rights of the person, labour rights, the rights of children, gender equality, non-discrimination, indigenous peoples’ rights, and the rights of peoples to their culture, religion/belief and language.2 In recent decades the growing influence of NSAs on human rights, and the need for international organisations to engage with them, has been widely recognised, but defining NSAs has presented a difficult challenge. Following an introduction setting out the aims and methodology of the report, the first general part, Chapters II-V, reflects on the challenge of defining NSAs and considers to what extent the international human rights regime encompasses the broad categorisation of NSAs in this report. It also discusses the EU’s approach to engagement with NSAs, the cross-cutting issue of the media, and the measurement of NSA impacts on human rights. In the following parts, Chapters VI-IX, the report analyses the positive and negative human rights impacts of each of the identified vertical groupings of NSAs by reference to the horizontal areas referred to above. The report concludes in Chapter X with a summary of the main findings in respect of the four groups of NSAs. The conclusion highlights several significant points that assist our understanding of both the positive and negative human rights impacts of these different types of NSAs. Overall, the report provides a broad foundation for the next stages of research in WP7, which will involve a critical assessment of the EU’s engagement with NSAs and an exploration of the need for deeper institutionalised engagement in meeting the challenges of protecting and promoting human rights in EU internal and external policies.