The University of Oklahoma College of Law has established the first International Business and Human Rights Center at a U.S. law school. The Center was founded in 2016 with a two-fold mission: (1) to provide OU Law students with academic training, networking, and practical experience in this emerging field that will equip them to be leaders in this space, and (2) to provide academic think tank support on international business and human rights issues, with a particular focus on the energy/extractive sector and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies. The Center seeks to achieve this mission by hosting awareness raising events, participating in legal engagement on contemporary IBHR issues, offering cutting-edge courses, and producing relevant scholarship.
U.S. businesses are increasingly finding themselves in difficult operating environments abroad that have weak rule of law institutions and significant human rights problems. At the same time, the U.S. Government expects companies to respect human rights and conduct human rights due diligence in their operations, in line with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. A recent survey has found a significant number of companies now have human rights policies and companies more often than not expect their lawyers to serve as the implementers of such policies. These expectations require leadership by the legal community and support for U.S. businesses operating abroad. The Center was therefore formed to train future legal leaders in this field and to support research on IBHR matters.
The Center’s team is at the University of Oklahoma College of Law in Norman, Oklahoma. Evelyn Aswad, the Herman G. Kaiser Chair in International Law, is the founder and director of the Center. Follow the Center on Twitter: @OULawIBHR