Research Area II: Human Rights and Regulation in the Global Economy

Research Focus

► Human rights as a benchmark for the political regulation of economic processes
► Due diligence laws for transnational companies
► Digital tools for the enforcement of labour standards
► Changing foundations of private actor accountability and compliance

International human rights are increasingly becoming a normative benchmark for shaping transnational economic processes politically. This is reflected in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. In Germany, the EU and many countries around the world, actors have since been struggling to find political approaches to human rights-informed regulation, for example through so-called due diligence laws for transnational corporations.

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In this research area, we deal with the connections between human rights and the regulation of the global economy. The focus here is on questions of the power and legitimacy of private actors. Actors include private companies as well as civil society, trade union or multi-actor networks. They are regulated by public actors and institutions, but also act as regulating actors themselves by setting and interpreting rules or exerting political influence in various ways.

Private-sector and civil-society practices thus also constitute or transform forms of political authority, which are, however, always the subject of political contestation. Understanding the diverse and dynamic situations of contested authority in transnational human rights protection is a core interest of the research area.

Theoretically, we further develop perspectives on processes of change in transnational governance and related conflicts of power and authority. Empirically, we investigate new political spaces of contestation over the aforementioned questions, for example in the context of new supply chain laws or also in national and international negotiations on socio-ecological transformations of the economy. Governments, civil society networks, trade unions, workers and private companies are constantly struggling for spaces of action, for rights and their recognition, and for new forms of inter- and transnational regulation. In the process, new technologies are used, for example for digital information gathering in global supply chains, and new actor constellations and practices emerge, as in the case of the “Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety”. Private companies themselves are also changing their practices of transnational governance, for example in areas of risk analysis and accounting. In doing so, they are changing the foundations of accountability and playing a key role in shaping social conventions of responsibility and compliance.

Research Projects

Legal Struggles in Transnational Supply Chains

Recent Publications

► Sorg, C; Vestena, C A; Scheper, C; Zajak, S (2023): Digital  worker feedback infrastructures: The digitalisation of worker rights monitoring in global value chains. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, pp. 1–18. (online first). 

► Buckel, S; Engelhardt, A; Kopp, J; Pichl, M; Scheper, C; Vestena, C A (2023): "Powered by the Supply Chain": Der Streik in Gräfenhausen und die Rechtskämpfe um das neue Lieferkettengesetz. Verfassungsblog.

► Scheper, C.; Vestena, C. A.; Sorg, C.; Zajak, S. (2023): Menschenrechtliche Sorgfaltspflicht und der Einsatz von Worker Voice Tools. Partizipation als Risikomanagement? In T. Haipeter et al. (Eds.): Soziale Standards in globalen Lieferketten. Bielefeld: Transcript, pp. 75–95. 

► Scheper, C. (2023) The Dark Side of Global Supply Chain Cooperation. Global Cooperation Research - A Quarterly Magazine 1/2023.

Sorg, C.; Vestena, C.; Scheper, C.; Zajak, S. (2022) Worker Voice Tools ohne Worker Voice? Zur digitalen Governance von Arbeitsrechten in globalen Wertschöpfungsketten. WSI-Mitteilungen 75(6): 448-456.

Scheper, Christian 2022: Multiplicity, the Corporation and Human Rights in Global Value Chains, in: Cooperation and Conflict. DOI: 10.1177/00108367221098495

Head of Research Area

Dr. Christian Scheper

Room: LS 032
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-4424
E-Mail: christian.scheper[at]
Staff Portfolio

Participating Members

Anne Engelhardt, M.A.

Room: LS 032
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-3675
E-Mail: anne.engelhardt[at]
Staff Portfolio