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Business and Human Rights

Despite increased attention on risks and adverse impacts of business operations on human rights, and the development of guidelines, initiatives and case-law, many challenges and obstacles are still hampering desired progress. Examples of workers in terribly risky environments, women trafficked in the supply chains, or migrants exploited for profit are still numerous. In addition, there are other ways in which businesses harm human rights: in the last five years, over 2000 attacks took place against human rights defenders working on businesses-related abuses; among the 615 attacks that have been tracked in 2021, nearly 70% were against climate, land and environmental rights defenders; today, about 108 million defenseless children still work in the agricultural sector, often in dangerous conditions and under limited socially responsible regulation by enterprises.

In this light, business and human rights are still often in opposition: companies hardly value the human toll of their profitable production. Governments often fail to protect business-related human rights defenders. But responsible businesses can prevent potential damages and offer space for accountability and redress. States regulations and policies can shape business behaviour and help ensure human rights protection. Recent promising initiatives can foster transformation. If business and human rights actors understood better how they could support each other, change would be more feasible.

This MOOC is a contribution to such understanding. It looks at international standards and principles as well as regional and national practices. In particular, it focuses on the links between business and human rights defenders, case-law, due diligence and children’s rights protection in this area. It aims to be relevant for businesses themselves, state representatives, grassroot organisations working on business related issues, workers and ordinary citizens who wish to inspire a transformation in the way business and human rights relate to each other.


Course Outline

The course is articulated in two parts:

Part 1 focuses on the general international framework on the relation between business and human rights. In particular, it summarily explains standards, mechanisms, benefits and challenges in the current set up, especially at the United Nations and regional level. Specific attention will be paid to the UN Guiding Principles, the UN Global Compact, and other recent initiatives, examples and practices.

Part 2 is dedicated to specific themes of pressing value: the protection of human rights defenders working on business-related abuses; the case-law emerging from recent developments; corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the development of legislation on mandatory due diligence; the challenges of intersectionality and in particular the rights of children in relation to business practices. In so doing, the course analyses the links with the international framework and provides examples from different regional areas.

Lecturers and Experts

Designed in cooperation with lecturers and experts from the 7 Regional Master’s Programmes of the GC, the MOOC offers a wealth of specialised knowledge and examples, enabling participants to benefit from rich and varied competences. Lecturers/experts include, among others:


Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course participants will have gained:

  • Knowledge about key standards, documents and approaches
  • Understanding of progress and obstacles in terms of more viable cooperation, from the point of view of companies, states and affected rights-holders
  • Ability to identify multi-faceted aspects (pros and cons of each side of the matter)
  • Capacity to discuss specific areas and groups/cases of concern





How do I enrol in the course?

In order to enrol, please follow the instructions on our “How to Enrol” webpage. This will then lead you to the OpenEdX course page. Once you are there, you can start the enrolment process by clicking the "enrol" button.

Is there a selection procedure to participate in the course?

The course is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which means we do not select participants on any basis. Rather, we welcome anyone who is interested in learning more about the topic to enrol and participate for free.



I would like to know if the course is free or if some parts are to be paid

Our course is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which means all components are open and totally free for anyone.

Do I need to pay any fee to attend the course?

There are no registration or tuition fees.



Is the course accessible to persons with disabilities?

We want all participants in our courses to enjoy a great learning experience and we strive to always improve accessibility. Each week of the course includes one or two video lectures with accompanying transcripts and reading materials. The texts are in PDF format, work at low bandwidths, are printable and can be zoomed to the desired size. Some readings may include pages from accessible websites. This makes all of them accessible to those who use assistive technology software such as screen readers. Likewise, weekly discussions and module quizzes can be completed through our platform which is accessible, for example, to people who use speech input, keyboard accessible controls or text to speech tools. For more details please visit EdX Website Accessibility Policy.


Structure and content

Is there a schedule for the course or is it self-directed?

The course is self-paced so participants can study in their own time.


Certificate of participation

What does it mean “Audit-only”? Will I get a certificate?

Auditors can complete any or all the parts of the course at their own pace, but will not receive a certificate. Participants who want proof of completion can simply print the progress chart that they will find in their course page..


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