The relevance of governance and multi-level governance to the study of human rights: Insights from business and human rights

Claire Methven O'Brien (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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This chapter explores and supports the relevance of the idea of governance to the study of human rights. The business and human rights field emerged in response to concerns over the adequacy of human rights norms and institutions in addressing the social and environmental impacts of global market integration. Because business and human rights stems from and addresses transnational and market-based dynamics, relationships and actors, it confronts state-centric framings of human rights, and demands inquiries beyond two-level (national/international) analysis. This makes relevant the theoretical framing of “governance”, by contrast to the prior notion of “government”. More specifically, understanding of business and human right systems and phenomena are deepened with reference to governance and multi-level governance theory, according to which authority, legitimacy and social steering capacities are dispersed across multiple spatial, technical, overlapping and competing “jurisdictions” beyond the nation state and incorporating market actors. The chapter illustrates this by exploring how multi-level governance framing informs the study of the “national human rights system” and its interaction with business and human rights norms and actors. Concluding, it reflects on implications for broader human rights scholarship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on the Politics of Human Rights Law
Subtitle of host publicationGovernance, Distributive Justice and International Politics
EditorsBård A. Andreassen
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781789908831
ISBN (Print)9781789908824
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2023

Publication series

NameResearch Handbooks in Law and Politics series
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing


  • Business and human rights
  • governance
  • multi-level governance
  • regulation
  • regulatory pluralism
  • multilevel governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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