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Natural resources and human rights: impacts, conflicts, benefits, stakeholders and governance

PhD School in Organisation and Management Studies at CBS


  • Karin Buhmann, Professor (Business and Human Rights), Copenhagen Business School (CBS)
  • Stepan Wood, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Law, Society and Sustainability, Peter A Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Joao Paolo Candia Veiga, Professor of Political Science, University of Sao Paolo
  • Hans Kristian Olsen, University of Greenland/Ilisimatusarfik
  • Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Professor of Law (Arctic Oil and Gas Studies), University of Greenland
  • Ellen Margrethe Basse, Professor of Environmental Law, School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University
  • Liang Xiaohui, Adjunct Professor, Peking University Law School, and Chief Researcher, Office for Social Responsibility, China National Textile and Apparel Council
  • Sara Seck, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University
  • Frank Sejersen, Associate Professor (Cultural Anthropology), University of Copenhagen
  • Dorothée Cambou, Post-doctoral Researcher, Helsinki University
  • Alberto Fonseca, Assistant Professor (Environmental Impact Assessment), School of Mines, Federal University of Ouro Preto, Brazil
  • Rajiv Maher, Assistant Professor (Critical Management Studies), Université de Paris Dauphiné and external lecturer (Business and Human Rights and CSR), CBS.
  • Jacobo Ramirez, Assistant Professor (Latin American Business Development), CBS
  • Nora Götzmann, Danish Institute for Human Rights (tbc)
  • Sille Stidsen, Danish Institute for Human Rights


The course targets PhD students with an interest in the societal impact of the exploration, extraction and other forms of use or non-use of renewable or non-renewable natural resources.

The course is open to PhD students from all disciplines, in recognition of the fact that the intersection between natural resources and societal impacts connects to or has relevance to several scientific disciplines. The course is taught from a social science perspective, but students specializing in natural or other disciplinary perspectives are welcome and will enrich debates and the course in general.

Students should attach to the application a motivated letter (no more than one page). In case of more applicants that spaces, applicants will be selected based on their applications. Students will be informed of their acceptance in the second half of October 2018.

Two weeks before the start of the course, students are required to submit a 5-page paper (approximately 2,500 words) reflecting on the relevance of sustainability and extractives to their research projects. The text must apply and cite at least 10 of the texts listed in the “Course Literature” section below. The deadline for electronic submission of presentations via email to the course coordinator ( is 12 noon on 27 November 2018. Students will have the opportunity to present their work based on their paper during the first day of the course and reflect on the insights they have gained through the course and receive feedback on the last day of the course. Active participation in the presentation, reflection on learning and in the provision of feedback to other students is a precondition for passing the course.

It is a precondition for receiving the course diploma that students attend the whole course.


Natural resources offer significant sources of employment and income for individuals, communities and states. Their use may cause a range of societal impacts, of which many are positive but others are more problematic. Among the latter, human rights impacts constitute particular. Private as well as public organizations involved in the broad variety of natural resource usage, exploitation, preservation and administration need to understand the variety and complexity of human rights in order to identify and manage adverse human rights impacts, and maximize positive impacts as elements in the governance of natural resources.

Some of the typical issues and concerns of human rights pertinence include failures to design and implement processes to allow stakeholders to understand impacts and express their views; decision-making that disregards the views and concerns of affected stakeholders; environmental pollution causing health impacts; changed or expanded use of forests or land, impacting the practices, culture and sustenance of local communities and often involving tenure rights conflicts; labour abuse; and inadequate remedy in terms of access, process and substance. The development of infrastructure for exploitation or transport of natural resources or cultivation of new resources may also offer societal benefits, some of which can be of human rights relevance and contribute towards the full realization of human rights (for example, improved practices for labour protection, vocational training or other capacity building, or empowerment by building strong participation, voice and remedy processes and institutions).

In line with recent years’ fast growing theory, normative guidance and practice on business and human rights, the risks or opportunities of natural resource exploration use or non-use call for processes to explore impacts, both harmful and beneficial, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. This is significant for organizations to manage adverse impacts by preventing or mitigating and remedying them, to maximize positive impacts, and in both cases to account for their processes and outcomes. This applies whether we look at the governance of non-renewable resources, such hydrocarbons, rare earth minerals or gems; or renewable resources, such as agri-products, marine products, animal husbandry, forests/timber or renewable energy. The goal of the course is to equip students with the theoretical foundations for engaging in these tasks as employees in or service providers to private or public organizations.


While circumstances and geography differ, the societal challenges set out above do not fundamentally differ whether resources are based in the Global South or the High North (Arctic) or anywhere in between. Commercial interests in exploration and extraction of natural resources in Arctic areas are on the rise, owing to climatic changes making access easier in some respects as well as technological advancements and local demand for industrial development. Focusing particularly on organizational processes and the knowledge needed to identify and manage human rights impacts, the course will address the topic from a global perspective and draw on lecturers, examples and cases from the Global South to the Arctic.

Throughout the course, the emphasis is on organizational processes and human rights impact management as aspects of natural resource governance.

In order to enable students to appreciate the natural science context in which the human rights issues arise, the course will include basic introductions to selected renewable and non-renewable resources by sector experts.

Teaching style

Lectures, practioners’ presentations, student presentations, discussions, excursion.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to

  • master basic theoretical frameworks for understanding and identifying human rights issues that arise in regard to renewable and non-renewable natural resources with a particular focus on adverse impacts, conflicts, benefits, stakeholders and governance
  • understand and explain the interrelationship between theories on human rights impacts and their management in regard to the governance of natural resources, and normative frameworks of a public, private or hybrid nature, whether binding or guiding
  • analyze and explain the human rights impacts of activities undertaken in regard to the exploration, use or non-use and administration of natural resources, and critically reflect upon both beneficial and adverse impacts and the challenges or opportunities they represent to societies or communities in the Global South or High North

  • identify and explain processes for meaningful stakeholder engagement as an element in the governance of natural resources and the exercise of risk-based due diligence, and critically reflect on what types of stakeholders may be affected in particular contexts in the Global South and the High North, what types of impacts may be particularly significant (whether adverse or beneficial), and how these may be considered in impact assessment processes and impact benefit agreements as natural resource governance instruments

  • draw out, critically reflect upon, and apply theoretical implications to advance the respect and protection of human rights in the governance of natural resources.

Financial support:

Thanks to a grant from the Danish government for the network project under which the course is co-organised (UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Resources and Social Responsibility (TN ASRSR)), limited support is available for travel and/or accommodation and/or living expenses for participants who can document the need. Participants are expected to rely on own funds, if available, or to apply for mobility funds from their institutions or through other available sources, e.g. North2North for students from universities that are members of UArctic. Those who do not have access to such funds to fully cover their expenses may apply. Funds will be dispersed to the extent available, by decision of the Steering Committee of TN ASRSR based on assessment of applications and needs.

To apply, include a ½-1 page with your application for the course. This should be integrated in the application file as a second page, entitled MOBILITY SUPPORT APPLICATION. The mobility application does not count in your one-page application for the course. The mobility application should include:

  • a budget for your travel, accommodation, and living expenses, indicating the funds that you have from other sources and the amount applied for

  • an explanation of why the funding is needed

  • whether mobility support will be a condition for the applicant’s ability to participate.

Please note that as of mid-September 2018, funds for mobility support are quite limited and students applying for mobility support encouraged to not rely only on these funds for their attendance.



Course dates
10 December 2018 - 14 December 2018
See the course description
Copenhagen Business School
5 points

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