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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Corruption of various types undermines the implementation of ESCR and contributes to the generation (or perpetuation) and deepening of poverty. Surveys of the very poor in the Global South reveal that corruption has a significant and detrimental impact on impoverished people’s lives. Especially the human rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), for instances the right to adequate food and housing, water, equitable access to public goods and services, the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health, are highly sensitive on corruption. Also at larger scales and across national borders, corruption not only reduces the net income of the poor, but is also hampering programs aimed at meeting their basic needs, from sanitation to education to housing and healthcare. It misallocates resources that are meant to fulfil ESCR through various state programmes.  

In recent years, corruption cases have become famous for their transnational dimension and it is for this reason that Extraterritorial Obligations (ETOs) play a strong role. These cases commonly feature public officials illicitly enriching themselves at public expense and depositing those ill-gotten assets in foreign banks, oversea properties and financial instruments (off-shore havens). Other areas for which ETOs play an important role are Oversea Development Assistance, Corruption in Public Contracting and Privatization, Corruption in the Water Sector, and Land and Real-estate Fraud.

Several principles laid down in the Maastricht Principles on ETOs are relevant in the field of corruption. States are obliged to refrain from any action that would impair or nullify the enjoyment of ESCRs of those also living extraterritorially (Principle 19- 22). Cases connected to the financial crisis, high-level fraud and corrupt practices in investment trading have a clear damaging cross-border consequence. Furthermore, States have the obligation to protect individuals ESCRs by regulating or influencing non-state actors (Principles 23-27). Cases involving these principles include private sector actors and business persons bribing foreign officials (BFO) for favorable commercial conditions and/or contracts. The extraterritorial obligation to fulfill requests States to create, separately and jointly through international cooperation, an enabling environment conducive to the universal fulfillment of ESCRs (Principles 28-35). In this context there is a need for States to collaborate in the exchange of information, technical assistance and return of assets.

Focal Group 2 of the ETO Consortium deals with Corruption. If you want to get in touch with this Focal Group, please contact the Consortium’s Secretariat at .