Business and Human Rights Advocacy Lab


What does it mean to be a human rights advocate? This course explores this question with a focus on the exciting, rapidly evolving area of business and human rights. Student teams will work on research projects for outside organizations, such as the UN, NGOs based in India, and multinational companies that are in the process of developing human rights policies. Examples of broad issues that students might work on include child and forced labor, efficacy of voluntary vs. binding rules for corporate conduct, “best practices” for labor rights, and the role of the financial sector and human rights. These collaborative, hands-on projects introduce students to a range of critical policy skills, including legal research, designing and mapping project goals and implementation, client interviewing and, most importantly, writing reports and policy briefs for partner organizations.

Collaborations have included: 

  • Spring 2015: Working with Seva Mandir, an NGO in Utta Pradesh, on a report on child labor in cotton seed production 
  • Spring 2016: Conducting case studies for a report on responsible business practices in India for the Indian NGO Corporate Responsibility Watch, available here
  • An on-going data collection project with the NGO MSI Integrity

In addition to policy projects, class readings and discussions will focus on core debates in the business and human rights field, as well as key ethical challenges of human rights advocacy: What are and what should be the human rights obligations of multinational corporations? Which advocacy strategies have worked in promoting corporate accountability, and which have backfired?  What are the risks and strategic benefits of civil society-corporate partnerships? How should human rights advocates confront the ethical challenges involved in promoting corporate accountability in foreign, and, especially developing, countries?  This course is available for writing, research and service learning credits, and is limited to 10-12 students. Permission of instructor is required.

Crosslisting Numbers: 

ICS 317S

Curriculum Codes: 

EI, R, W