Oxford Brookes Business School

Academic networks in conversation with business and human rights stakeholders at the United Nations

Friday, 30 November 2018


In previous years, a number of academic, research and teaching networks in universities and business schools have emerged in the business and human rights (BHR) arena, becoming both creations and co-creators of the BHR field. How do research and teaching in these networks help advance BHR thinking and practice? Which audiences and stakeholders do they reach or should they aim to reach? How do they contribute to identifying and building on what works in BHR?

BHR academics and networks have been among the most regular and important stakeholder community attending and individually contributing to the United Nations Business and Human Rights Forum since its inauguration in 2012. It is only at the Forum’s 7th edition from 26 to 28 November 2018, however, that they were invited to organise a session as a BHR stakeholder community. Dr Samentha Goethals co-organised and spoke at this first ever academic-led roundtable conversation with business, NGOs and governments stakeholders.

One of the Forum’s opening sessions, it explored the complex role of business & human rights academic research and teaching networks in the BHR field such as interpreting policies and laws; developing toolkits; training directors, managers, employees; facilitating discussion; validating research; expert cooperation and consulting. Over 70 participants from different regions and diverse sectors attended the session demonstrating the interest and appetite for scholarship in BHR to engage with and inform business, advocacy and policy practice.

The questions and conversations ranged wide but three topics stood out: the role of academics and universities in educating a critical mass of students, employees, managers, and leaders in BHR; the importance for engagement and collaboration between scholars and BHR stakeholders, as well as participatory and critical research and teaching; and the need for rigorous, deep, credible and legitimate research that addresses challenges facing different BHR stakeholders and encompasses diverse regional and alternative perspectives.

This academic roundtable was one of three events supported by  the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Working Group (UNWG) on Business and Human Rights.

Dr Goethals was  invited to represent Oxford Brookes Business School at the second workshop for business schools with established or emerging BHR teaching and research programmes ‘Incorporating Human Rights into Business Education: The Way Forward’. She also presented her working paper ‘When Corporate Human Rights Responsibility takes a ‘positive’ turn: Ensuring access to decent work for Syrian refugees in garment supply-chains in Turkey and Jordan’ at the Global Business and Human Rights research workshop organised by the BHRights Initiative. The endorsement of these events by the OHCHR and UNGW is a welcome support and encouragement for the development of BHR research and teaching programmes in universities and business schools.