Despite the universality of human rights, many States still interpret their human rights obligations as being applicable only within their own borders. This attempt to limit obligations territorially has led to serious gaps in human rights protection in various international political processes and a lack of adequate regulation for the protection of human rights. In the context of globalization, these gaps in human rights protections have expanded.

States, however, are no longer the sole or even the primary actors in international law and policy. Investor protection provisions in trade and investment treaties have given companies new tools to block public interest regulations and to undermine the legitimate public policy choices of States and communities in forums to which the broader public has little or no access. By contrast, the judicial and quasi-judicial tools available to address the trans-boundary harms caused by corporate activities remain weak, slow and difficult to access.

CIEL’s efforts to develop new and more effective tools for holding corporations accountable for the impacts of their operations abroad aim to have a large and lasting impact for civil society as a whole, in countries around the world.