For Human Rights Beyond Borders

Human Rights have been locked up behind domestic bars to prevent their universal application to globalization and its much needed regulation. Extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) unlock human rights.

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Extraterritorial Obligations (ETOs)

ETOs are a missing link: Without ETOs, human rights could not assume their proper role as the legal bases for regulating globalization. With ETOs, an enabling environment for ESCRs can be generated, the primacy of human rights can be implemented, climate and eco-destruction can be stopped, the dominance of big money broken, TNCs regulated, and IGOs made accountable. 

Even though the universality of human rights was always clear, States have shown tendencies to limit their human rights obligations to their own territory. This reductionism to territorial obligations has led to a vacuum of human rights protection in a number of international political processes and a paucity of regulations for the protection of human rights. The situation is particularly challenging in the field of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). The identified gaps in human rights protection which have become more severe in the context of globalisation during the past 20 years include: 

  • the HR regulation and accountability of transnational corporations (TNCs)
  • the HR accountability of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), in particular international financial institutions (IFIs)
  • the ineffectiveness in application of human rights law in the face of investment and trade law which has developed over the past 20 years
  • the implementation of corresponding duties to protect and fulfil ESCR abroad inter alia through international cooperation and assistance 

At the same time these issues started to be addressed by the human rights community. There have been numerous pronouncements in human rights law relating to extraterritorial obligations. The underlying principles were carefully researched and finally formulated as the “Maastricht Principles on extraterritorial obligations in the area of ESCR” - in September 2011 by a conference of experts from universities and organizations located in all regions of the world. The experts included current and former members of international human rights treaty bodies, regional human rights bodies, and former and current Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

Now the time has come to apply ETOs as an integral part of standard human rights analysis. The ETO Consortium and its website are meant to assist CSOs, academia and States in mainstreaming and applying ETOs in their work.