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International Docorate Program (IDP): “Business and Human Rights: Governance Challenges in a Complex World”


The chair “African Legal Studies” at the University of Bayreuth with its director and member of the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence Prof. Dr. Thoko Kaime will be part of an International Doctoral Program. The Program called “Business and Human Rights: Governance Challenges in a Complex World” (BHR_Governance) will start in 2021.

By Philipp Bogensperger, student assistant at the chair African Legal Studies at Uni Bayreuth

The Elitenetzwerk Bayern will fund three new International Doctoral Programs starting in 2021, and the University of Bayreuth is involved in one of them. The topic is "Business and Human Rights: Governance Challenges in a Complex World." The host university is the FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, also involved are the JMU Würzburg and the University of Bayreuth. Bayreuth is represented by Prof. Dr. Eva Julia Lohse, holder of the Chair of Public Law III, and Prof. Dr. Thoko Kaime, holder of the Chair of African Legal Studies and member of the Cluster of Excellence Africa Multiple. The program is about exploring the human rights perspective in areas of society that, at first glance, are often more driven by economic, financial or social interests, at the University of Bayreuth, a focus is to be placed on "Human Rights and Sustainable Development".

Scientific profile

The impact of global business activities on human rights is subject of growing public interest and academic reflections. This raises new expectations concerning the role of corporations for the realisation of human rights and challenges existing modes of corporate and supply chain governance. At the same time, national and international normative frameworks emerge which lead to new global governance structures for business and human rights. However, despite the increasing practical relevance and considerable international research, business and human rights as an academic field is still in its early stages in Germany.

The IDP BHR_Governance aims to fill this lacuna by creating a unique inter- and transdisciplinary research forum for excellent doctoral projects addressing practically relevant problems and theoretically grounded fundamental questions of the impact of businesses on human rights and vice versa. The IDP will become the primary focal point for research in this field in Germany.

The scientific profile of the IDP BHR_Governance evolves around business and human rights from a governance perspective in four distinct and innovative research fields: (1) Global value chain and transnational economic governance; (2) changing labour relations; (3) digital transformation and (4) environmental sustainability. In order to provide a fruitful exchange between the involved disciplinary perspectives and methods, the notion of governance serves as a common conceptual paradigm to explore the interplay between business and human rights. Governance manifests itself in this context through soft law instruments such as business self-regulation (industry standards or codes of conduct) and non-binding international guidelines as well as through hard law including national legislation and international treaties.

Design of the program

The IDP BHR_Governance provides doctoral researchers with an innovative interdisciplinary environment to develop their ideas in intense cooperation with different disciplines. Unlike many other research institutes in the field of business and human rights, the IDP will have a genuine interdisciplinary setting including law and management studies as the core disciplines for research on business and human rights as well as information systems, sociology and political sciences as disciplines which contribute to the understanding of governance issues in this context. The IDP will train doctoral researchers in the basic methods of the disciplines contributing to the research program and create a unique opportunity to productively combine different methods and to achieve innovative research results. The IDP will therefore be one of the few places worldwide actively pursuing an interdisciplinary research agenda in business and human rights.

Due to the significant practical relevance of the issues evolving around business and human rights for corporations, lawmakers and political actors, the IDP will follow a transdisciplinary approach and facilitate research projects developed jointly with partners from business and legal practice.

The IDP will also react to the limited amount of research on fundamental theoretical questions concerning business and human rights. It will encourage researchers to consider both established orthodox as well as heterodox and pluralist theoretical frameworks and promote theoretical and methodological advances from a governance perspective.

The IDP BHR_Governance will consist of up to 12 doctoral researchers funded by Elitenetzwerk Bayern and up to eight additional doctoral researchers funded by other external research grants or research scholarships selected on the basis of excellence as well as the 15 PIs from the participating universities. The IDP will offer the degrees of Dr. jur., Dr. rer. pol. and Dr. phil. subject to the main disciplinary background of the doctoral researcher.


Prof. Dr. Thoko Kaime summarizes the project “The IDP will launch with the beginning of the winter term 2021/22 and I am very excited about this upcoming kick-off. In cooperation with Erlangen-Nuremberg and Würzburg we are developing a unique research forum which will host around 20 doctoral researchers and enable research on human rights and governance from new perspectives. I am grateful to be part of the IDP BHR Governance.”

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