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 gaps in human rights protection in various international political processes and a lack of adequate regulation for the protection of human rights.
Extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) are a missing link in the universal human rights protection system. Without ETOs, human rights cannot assume their proper role as the legal basis for regulating globalization and ensuring universal protection of all people and groups. A consistent realization of ETOs can generate an enabling environment for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and guarantee the primacy of human rights among competing sources of international law. ETOs provide for State regulation of transnational corporations, State accountability for the actions and omissions of intergovernmental organizations in which they participate, set standards for the human rights obligations of IGOs, and are a tool needed to ultimately stop the destruction of eco-systems and climate
As the challenges have grown in size and number, the human rights community has increasingly paid attention to these issues, as reflected for instance in the numerous pronouncements relating to ETOs in human rights law.