Rafael Harnos (Bonn): “Humans Rights Protection Through Corporate Communications”


The current debate on how private companies can contribute to strengthening human rights has so far produced rather disillusioning results. Particularly in international corporations and supply chains, liability fails as a common instrument of behavioral control because the law allows companies to shirk responsibility for human rights violations. Against this background, the lecture addresses the question of how human rights protection can be reinforced through corporate communications. The starting point of this analysis is the so-called CSR reporting, i.e. reporting on non-financial aspects. In these non-financial reports, companies explain how their work affects human rights and how they aim to improve the standard of protection.

CSR reporting can create legal as well as social obligations. A company that reports it will engage in human rights protection and refrain from human rights violations is making a promise to the general public. A public that believes such a promise and trusts the company, will – as Luhmann rightly pointed out – be more inclined to interact with the company. Hence, reporting that is intended as an act of self-expression can lead to a self-commitment and thus indirectly contribute to higher human rights standards. The lecture analyzes the legal and social instruments that create such a bond as well as the consequences of any breach of trust.

(Dr. Rafael Harnos)

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Rafael Harnos studied Law from 2004 to 2009 at the University of Konstanz, where he subsequently was a research associate and doctoral student. In 2013, he received his doctorate with a piece on “Geschäftsleiterhaftung bei unklarer Rechtslage: Eine Untersuchung am Beispiel des Kartellrechts” (“Managing Director Liability in Unclear Legal Situations: An Investigation Using Anti-Trust Law”). He passed his second state examination in Law at the Landesjustizprüfrungsamt in Stuttgart in 2014. Following this, he transfered to the Department of Civil, Commercial, and Corporate Law at the University of Bonn and has been a research associate and postdoctoral candidate there since May 2014. Rafael Harnos has also been lecturing at the German Law School in Warsaw since 2015 and editing the Zeitschrift für Bank- und Kapitalmarktrecht (BKR) since 2018.      

Since April 2019, Dr. Rafael Harnos has been Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture” in Bonn.