GoJIL Vol. 10, No. 1 (2020)
Through the Looking Glass: Corporate Actors and Environmental Harm Beyond the ILC
Daniëlla Dam-de Jong and Saskia Wolters
Corporate activities take place in a variety of social contexts, including in countries affected by armed conflict. Whether corporations are physically present in these regions or merely do business with partners from conflict zones, there is an increased risk that their activities contribute to egregious human rights abuses or serious environmental harm. This is especially so for corporations active in or relying on the extractives sector. It is against this background that the ILC included two principles addressing corporate responsibility for environmental harm in its Draft Principles on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict. Both principles explicitly call on the home States of these corporations to give effect to their complementary role in regulating and enforcing corporate social responsibility. Draft Principle 10 addresses the responsibility of home States to regulate multinational corporations under the heading of “corporate due diligence”, while Draft Principle 11 addresses the responsibility of home States to hold multinational corporations liable for environmental damage caused in conflict zones. The current contribution engages with the potential normative foundations underpinning extraterritorial responsibilities for the home States of multinational corporations with respect to the prevention and remediation of environmental harm in conflict zones, focusing on international humanitarian law and international human rights law. It concludes that the Draft Principles are certainly indicative of the direction in which the law is evolving, but that no firm obligations beyond treaty law can be discerned as of yet. It was therefore a wise decision to phrase the respective Draft Principles as recommendations instead of obligations. At the same time, there are sufficient indications to conclude that it seems a matter of time before it is accepted that States have distinct obligations under customary international law for which their responsibility may be engaged. It is argued that the ILC Draft Principles provide an important impetus to these developments, not in the least because they provide a reference to States regarding the state-of-the-art and guidance for future action.
Download the full text as a PDF