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About

Mission

The Center’s mission is (1) to provide OU Law students with academic training, networking, and practical experience in this emerging field that will equip them to be leaders in this space, and (2) to provide academic think tank support on international business and human rights issues, with a particular focus on the energy/extractive sector and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies. The Center fulfills this mission through an approach involving awareness raising eventslegal engagementcoursework, and scholarship. The Center espouses a forward-looking approach, by helping stakeholders move forward in a positive way, rather than a litigation-oriented approach to business and human rights issues. 

What is International Business & Human Rights?

U.S. businesses are increasingly operating in countries with weak rule of law institutions and poor human rights records. At the same time, the U.S. Government has issued policy guidance stating that it expects companies will respect international human rights norms when operating abroad, conduct human rights due diligence in their operations, and seek to avoid infringing on human rights. This guidance reflects a notable shift from the concept of “corporate social responsibility” (which focuses on corporate philanthropy) to “business and human rights” (which focuses on companies making sure their own business operations respect human rights).

U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: The U.S. Government has stated that it expects U.S. companies to treat the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the UN GPs) as a floor rather than a ceiling in their operations. The UN GPs provide that companies should seek to avoid infringing on international human rights and, if that is not possible, that they provide remedies. To implement the UN GPs, companies are expected to engage in human rights due diligence in which they examine where their operations are most likely to impact negatively international human rights and to seek to avoid such impacts. Human rights are defined in the UN GPs as those rights set forth in several key United Nations human rights instruments. Such due diligence requires companies to engage in non-traditional legal and factual research and analysis as well as interacting with a variety of external stakeholders, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: The Guidelines represent recommendations by governments to multinational enterprises on responsible business conduct, including human rights issues. The U.S. government promotes these guidelines and has a National Contact Point that assists in their implementation.

 

Focus Areas

The Center focuses its scholarship, legal engagement, events, and courses on the energy and extractive sectors and Internet and Communication Technology (ICT) companies. In its legal engagement, the Center prioritizes providing academic think tank support to multi-stakeholder initiatives in these fields.

In December 2016, Professor Aswad was admitted as an academic participant in the Global Network Initiative. This multi-stakeholder initiative is composed of companies (Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Linkedin), NGOs (Human Rights Watch, Center for Democracy & Technology, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights First, PEN American Center, etc.), investors (Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Trillium Asset Management, Walden Asset Management, etc.), and academics. The mission of this initiative is to help companies provide their services without negatively impacting the international human rights to free expression and privacy of users.

The Center also closely follows the work of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Over fifteen years ago, the United States and the United Kingdom formed this multi-stakeholder initiative, which includes companies (Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, Shell, etc.), NGOs (Human Rights Watch, The Fund for Peace, International Alert, etc.), and governments (Australia, Canada, Colombia, Ghana, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States). The mission of this initiative is to help companies in the energy and extractive sectors engage the security they need to conduct their operations without negatively impacting the human rights of local populations.

 

The Team

 

Evelyn Mary Aswad
Director

Rebeca Joy West
Legal & Policy Associate

Josh Wiebe
Technology & Human Rights Fellow

Dan Sloat
Research Intern

Joseph Cassidy
Visiting Distinguished Fellow

 

Advisory Board

The purpose of the Advisory Board is to provide input and recommendations with respect to the Center’s mission.  The Advisory Board is comprised of individuals from the energy and ICT sectors, civil society, government, legal community, and international organizations.  The views of the Center do not necessarily reflect the views of Board members or their organizations. 

Lee Caplan
Arent Fox
Washington, D.C.

Joseph Cassidy
Wilson Center
Washington, D.C.

Arvind Ganesan
Human Rights Watch
Washington, D.C.

Steve Hill
NATO
Brussels, Belgium

Nicole Karlebach
Oath (Alternate)
New York, NY

Reg Manhas
Kosmos Energy
Dallas, TX

Samuel Merchant
McAfee & Taft
Oklahoma City, OK

Peter Micek
Access Now
New York, NY 

Paula Pyers
Apple
Cupertino, CA

Rachel Sauer
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 

Katie Shay
Oath
Washington, D.C.

Kirsten Thorne
Chevron
San Ramon, CA

James Viray
ConocoPhillips
Houston, TX 

Melike Yetken
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 

 

 

Young Alumni Advisory & Pro Bono Council

The purpose of the Young Alumni Advisory & Pro Bono Council is to provide input, recommendations, and pro bono assistance with respect to the Center’s mission. The Council is comprised of alumni who have taken the relevant courses during law school and who represent a cross-section of the legal community.

Alex Campbell
Underwood Perkins
Dallas, TX

Torri Christian
Attorney at Law
Oklahoma City, OK

Brooke Hamilton
Whitten Burrage
Oklahoma City, OK

Jason Hubbert
Cowan & Fleischer, PLLC
Oklahoma City, OK

Jennifer Lawmaster
The Stall Law Firm
Oklahoma City, OK

Caroline Lewis
Wiggins Sewell & Olgetree
Oklahoma City, OK 

Samuel Merchant
McAfee & Taft
Oklahoma City, OK 

Marcelo Pendleton-Moreno
Army JAG
Schofield Barracks, HI

Vilard Mullaliu
Kunzman & Bollinger, Inc.
Oklahoma City, OK 

Corie O'Rourke
Ayuda
Arlington, VA

Caitlin Otto
Otto Law Office
Newton, IA

Taymoor Pilehvar
Pilehvar Law, PLLC
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Ashley Quinn
GableGotwals
Oklahoma City, OK

Zayna Radwan
Assistant Attorney General
LaMarque, TX

Jeffrey Swigart
Vinson & Elkins LLP
Dallas, TX 

Amy Taylor
Assistant District Attorney
Oklahoma City, OK

Katherine Trent
Attorney at Law
Oklahoma City, OK  

 

 

 

Donors & Funding

The Center is funded by the College of Law, the Kaiser Chair in International Law, and individual donors. The Center is extremely grateful for those who believe in its mission and have helped make it possible. The Center maintains its academic freedom at all times; there are no promised products, results, or deliverables for donors.  See a full list of our donors here.

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