Paradise lost: Sovereign State Interest, Global Resource Exploitation and the Politics of Human Rights

Daniel Augenstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
136 Downloads (Pure)


Taking its cue from the US Supreme Court judgment in Kiobel that restricted the extraterritorial reach of the Alien Tort Claims Act, this article explores how sovereignty structures the relationship between global resource exploitation and the localization of human rights in the international order of states. The argument situates international human rights law in an area of tension between national political self-determination and the global economic exploitation of natural resources. Global business operations in resource-rich developing countries undermine the protective role of sovereignty in relation to political self-determination that once justified the confinement of human rights to the territorial state legal order. At the same time, jurisdiction as an expression of sovereignty restricts access to justice for victims of extraterritorial human rights violations in Western home states of 'multi-national' corporations. I contend that this asymmetry should be resolved through a territorial extension of international human rights law that accounts for the human rights impacts of global resource exploitation. This entails that transnational tort litigation for corporate human rights violations should be appraised in the light of states' human rights obligations to ensure effective civil remedies for victims located outside their borders. Moreover, it suggests that victims' quest for justice through private litigation is not merely about the satisfaction of pecuniary damages but also represents a public and political attempt to reclaim their human rights in the judicial fora of Western states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-691
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of International Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


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