George Participates in United Nations Human Rights Discussion in Geneva

On September 23-24, 2014, Erika George, Professor of Law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Global Justice, participated in a United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expert meeting about remedies for corporate involvement in gross human rights abuses. The meeting was based around a study by Dr. Jennifer Zerk about corporate liability and human rights as well as the recent Human Rights Council Resolution 22/26. The purpose of the meeting was to establish ways to strengthen domestic law remedies concerning human right abuses and corporate responsibilities.

“This meeting will help to ensure that the UN Framework and Guiding Principles are put into practice in a way that is meaningful for victims of rights violations,” George said. “The UN Human Rights Council was unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011. The Framework set forth three core organizing pillars for addressing business and human rights issues: (1) states must protect rights; (2) business must respect rights; (3) victims of rights violations need access to remedy. Just this week the US announced plans to create a National Action Plan consistent with the Framework’s call to governments. However, governments around the world are in different places with respect to where responsibility lies for providing remedy for victims of violations.”

A report containing the updated work plans discussed in the meeting will be released to the public shortly. George believes that attention to lesser issues early on can prevent larger complications and suffering later. She urged that the worse cases not eclipse “other business practices that are incompatible with respect for rights. I appreciate that the discussion must start somewhere and perhaps it makes sense to start with the most egregious incidents but I hope a larger range of issues will be addressed as the work develops.”

2L Elizabeth Park assisted George with reviewing the UN proposals and preparing their comments for the discussion. Park remarked on how highly OHCHR prioritizes consultation when dealing with domestic law and human right issues and expressed how valuable compiling the observations was for her understanding of human rights abuses. Of her overall experience she said, “Having just finished my 1L year, this project served as a first glimpse into the legal sphere of international human rights violations and corresponding access to remedy for victims of human rights abuses. My work before law school centered on addressing human rights concerns in a non-legal field. The opportunity for me to provide commentary on OHCHR’s commissioned study served as the perfect project to bridge my developing legal knowledge with my non-legal experience.”