National Pro Bono Week – Advancing Human Rights In and Through Business

Lucia Berro 9th November 2014

Continuing with our series on internships for National Pro Bono Week, Lucia Berro reflects on her time as an OPBP Intern, working to foster greater awareness of human rights law in the business world.

Before arriving in Oxford I worked as an associate at a law firm that dealt with a series of investors interested in the profile offered by my home country—Uruguay. Increasingly, Latin America has become an attractive destination for investors. Worried about the environmental and social impact of these mega-projects, I began to think about how to encourage investors to consider Human Rights in their work, and this triggered my interest in the field of corporate social responsibility. While reading for the MJur, I realised I needed to expand my knowledge in the field of Business and Human Rights, and the internship at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre offered a perfect opportunity to gain this experience.

I worked from July to October at the Resource Centre’s office in London. I devoted most of my time at the Centre to develop the Corporate Legal Accountability Portal. This portal is the leading global information hub about human rights lawsuits against companies. I conducted thorough research on lawsuits and drafted profiles in non-legal language explaining the key elements of the case. The site presents more than 100 case profiles available in multiple languages with the objective of making the information widely accessible and available.

I collaborated actively with the activities of the Resource Centre. I had the opportunity to participate in the Roundtable on the Business and Human Rights Treaty co-organized with the University of Notre Dame Law School and engaged in very thought-provoking debates on the creation of an international arbitration tribunal. Also, I worked on the preparation of Weekly Updates and the Corporate Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. Through these publications, the Resource Centre raises awareness of business and human rights issues and helps draw global attention to how companies are impacting the rights of people and communities.

I had the opportunity to work the regional overview “Business & human rights in Africa: Time for a responsibility revolution” prepared by the Resource Centre’s African Regional Researchers. This briefing was developed for the United Nations’ first regional forum on business and human rights; it presented an analysis of the companies’ responses gathered by the Resource Centre regarding their human rights impacts in Africa.

Furthermore, after the approval of the Ecuadorian and South African proposal on the matter at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council, I researched different viewpoints on the Binding Treaty currently under consideration by the UN.

My experience at the Resource Centre has been extremely enriching. It helped me develop a new set of non-legal skills—like the use of social media to broaden the audience and raise awareness, website management and communication in non-legal language. I have also deepened my understanding of the culture of impunity that surrounds investments, the challenges that victims face when trying to hold companies accountable for Human Rights abuses and the need to think creatively to use existing mechanisms to ensure accountability. I’d highly recommend getting involved with OPBP’s work and joining the Resource Centre to help advance human rights in business.

If your organisation would benefit from hosting an intern from the University of Oxford, or you are an individual or organisation wishing to make a donation to OPBP, please click here to find out more about the OPBP Internship Programme or for details on how to support OPBP’s work.

Author profile

Lucia Berro is an Uruguayan lawyer, holds an MJur from Oxford and is currently a PhD Candidate in International Law at the University of Groningen.

Citations

Lucia Berro, ‘National Pro Bono Week – Advancing Human Rights In and Through Business’ (OxHRH, 9 November 2014) http://humanrights.dev3.oneltd.eu/?p=14442 [Date of Access].

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