Home » Articles » Business, Human Rights, and the Promise of Polycentricity

Business, Human Rights, and the Promise of Polycentricity

PDF · Jamie Darin Prenkert & Scott J. Shackelford · May-16-2014 · 47 VAND. J. TRANSNAT'L L. 451 (2014)

Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises (SRSG) John Ruggie referred to the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework (PRR Framework) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles) as a polycentric governance system. However, the exact meaning of this phrase has not been very carefully elucidated. This Article analyzes that description in the context of the deep and varied body of literature on polycentric governance and evaluates the PRR Framework in that light. In particular, this Article uses a case-study approach, analyzing the emerging polycentric governance system in the context of the sourcing of certain minerals from conflict-affected countries in the African Great Lakes region to explore these issues. The conflict minerals regulatory regime incorporates a notable number of the concerns and opportunities SRSG Ruggie highlighted and promoted in the PRR Framework and Guiding Principles. This Article then recommends further study of the concepts explored herein as applied to the business and human rights sector generally and conflict minerals regulation specifically. Ultimately, this Article argues that, given the relative paucity of binding international law regulating the human rights aspects of business and the unlikelihood of substantial multilateral progress in the near future, the success of the PRR Framework and Guiding Principles may well depend on whether the promise of their polycentric nature can be fully realized.

Image Source – Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Open Government Licence v1.0)

Leave a Reply

ExpressO Top 10 Law Review


The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law mourns the death of its founder, Professor Harold G. Maier.

We are pleased to announce the 2014-2015 Board of Editors and 2014-2015 Editorial Staff Members.

Please join us in congratulating the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 2013-2014 Annual Award Winners.

Coming up:

The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law invites you to its 2015 Symposium, This is Not a Drill: Confronting Legal Issues in the Wake of International Disasters.

Recent and dire international disasters, both environmental and humanitarian, have left legacies not only of destruction and destitution, but also of an uncertain legal landscape. The Symposium will address current and pressing international-disaster-response topics. These will include environmental effects, disaster assistance, humanitarian assistance, and criminal processes and sanctions in the wake of various types of international disasters. Symposium participants will include leading scholars from across the country.

The 2015 Symposium will take place on Friday, February 13, 2015 at Vanderbilt Law School, 131 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203. A detailed schedule will be available soon.

For information on the 2015 Symposium, as well as past symposia hosted by the Journal, please visit the Symposium page.

Explore Other Vanderbilt Law Resources