The UK Modern Slavery Act Two Years After: Where do we stand? - By Sara Martinetto

Editor's note: Sara Martinetto is a research intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. She has recently completed her LLM in Public International Law at the University of Amsterdam. She holds interests in Migration Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights and European Law, with a special focus on their transnational dimension.

In my previous blog, I explained how the negotiations on a prospective Treaty on Business and Human Rights are going hand-in-hand with the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The Principles – developed by Professor John Ruggie, and approved by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 – have attracted widespread consensus among both States and corporations.[1]  Nowadays, the UNGPs are regarded as crucial to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses connected to their activities. However, the UNGPs are not binding, and they need to be operationalized in national law, as reaffirmed in Human Right Council Resolution 26/22. To date, National Action Plans[2] appear as the preferred tool to transpose the Principles into national law. Nevertheless, their provisions are often of a descriptive nature, resembling more a declaration of intent rather than an effective implementation of the UNGPs.[3] Only recently, some States have actually adopted hard law instruments on Business and Human Rights, and the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) is one of them. The Act, aimed at tackling modern slavery and human trafficking, was sponsored by Theresa May and Lord Bates in 2014 and came into force on 29 October 2015.

Almost two years from the entry into force of the Act, this post aims at giving a brief account of what the Modern Slavery Act is and how it has been applied so far. The main focus will be on Section 54 of the Act (‘Transparency in the supply chain’), which prescribes a reporting obligation for corporations. More...



The Ilva Case – Part 2: The Transnational Recourse Against a Disaster Foretold - By Sara Martinetto

Editor's note: Sara Martinetto is a research intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. She has recently completed her LLM in Public International Law at the University of Amsterdam. She holds interests in Migration Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights and European Law, with a special focus on their transnational dimension.

Having explained the Italian legal trajectory of the Ilva case, this second post focuses on the transnational reach of the case. Two main actors have played (or play) a crucial role: the European Union (especially the EU Commission) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Both have tackled the Ilva case from different perspectives, depending on their competences. The Commission even dealt with the case from two distinctive viewpoints, as it started infringement proceedings related environmental protection state and aid.More...


The Ilva Case - Part 1: The Italian Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold - By Sara Martinetto

Editor's note: Sara Martinetto is a research intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. She has recently completed her LLM in Public International Law at the University of Amsterdam. She holds interests in Migration Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights and European Law, with a special focus on their transnational dimension.


More than 11000 deaths and 25000 hospitalisations: the numbers divulged by the prosecution expert report assessing the human consequence of the operation of Ilva industries in the Italian city of Taranto are staggering. The environmental disaster caused by the plant brought the whole area to its knees and, in spite of all the efforts made, is still on-going. This is the story of a never-ending conflict. A conflict between different rights, which need to be balanced; between public authorities, who bear responsibility for ensuring and protecting those rights; between different normative levels and powers, given the numerous infringement proceedings opened by the EU Commission and the most recent claims lodged to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In the following sections I will try to shed some light on the main legal aspects of this tragic saga. For clarity, this article is divided in two posts: the first deals with the national level, while the second focuses on the supranational dimension of the case.More...


FIFA's Human Rights Agenda: Is the Game Beautiful Again? – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.

 

Concerns about adverse human rights impacts related to FIFA's activities have intensified ever since its late 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar respectively. However, until recently, the world's governing body of football had done little to eliminate these concerns, thereby encouraging human rights advocates to exercise their critical eye on FIFA. 

In response to growing criticism, the Extraordinary FIFA Congress, held in February 2016, decided to include an explicit human rights commitment in the revised FIFA Statutes which came into force in April 2016. This commitment is encapsulated in Article 3 which reads as follows: ''FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights''. At around the same time, Professor John Ruggie, the author of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ('UN Guiding Principles') presented in his report 25 specific recommendations for FIFA on how to further embed respect for human rights across its global operations. While praising the decision to make a human rights commitment part of the organization's constituent document, Ruggie concluded that ''FIFA does not have yet adequate systems in place enabling it to know and show that it respects human rights in practice''.[1]

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia less than a year away, the time is ripe to look at whether Ruggie's statement about FIFA's inability to respect human rights still holds true today. This blog outlines the most salient human rights risks related to FIFA's activities and offers a general overview of what the world's governing body of football did over the past twelve months to mitigate these risks. Information about FIFA's human rights activities is collected primarily from its Activity Update on Human Rights published alongside FIFA's Human Rights Policy in June 2017. More...

Towards a ‘due diligence’ jurisprudence: The EU Timber Regulation’s requirements in courts - By Wybe Th. Douma

Editor’s note: Wybe Th. Douma is senior researcher in EU law and international trade law at the Asser Institute

 

Although the placing of illegally harvested timber on the EU internal market is prohibited already for over four years, the first court cases are appearing only now. Judges in Sweden and The Netherlands have recently held that the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) had not been met by two importing companies. The companies should have ensured that the timber from Myanmar and Cameroon was logged in compliance with the local legislation, should have provided extensive evidence of this, especially where the countries in question are prone to corruption and governance challenges, and should have adopted risk mitigation measures. Moreover, another Dutch court recently ordered the Dutch competent authorities to explain why they did not enforce the EUTR in cases where due diligence requirements concerning timber imported from Brazil were not met. In other EU member states, similar court decisions were adopted.[1]

The court decisions show that the EUTR system, aimed at ‘doing business right’ in the timber trade sector, is starting to take effect in practice. Could the ‘unilateral’ EUTR system form an example for other regimes that try to ensure that trade by the EU with the rest of the world contributes to sustainable development and the protection of human rights? And what role does the bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) between the EU and Indonesia play in this respect? More...

A Quest for justice: The ‘Ogoni Nine’ legal saga and the new Kiobel lawsuit against Shell. By Sara Martinetto

Editor's note: Sara Martinetto is an intern at T.M.C. Asser Institute. She has recently completed her LLM in Public International Law at the University of Amsterdam. She holds interests in Migration Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights and European Law, with a special focus on their transnational dimension.


On 29th June 2017, four Nigerian widows launched a civil case against Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), Shell Petroleum N.V., the Shell Transport and Trading Company, and its subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in the Netherlands. Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula are still seeking redress for the killing of their husbands in 1995 in Nigeria. They claim the defendants are accomplices in the execution of their husbands by the Abasha regime. Allegedly, the companies had provided material support, which then led to the arrest and death of the activists.  

In the light of this lawsuit, it is interesting to retrace the so-called ‘Ogoni Nine’ legal saga. The case saw the interplay between multiple jurisdictions and actors, and its analysis is useful to point out some of the main legal issues encountered on the path to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses. More...


Who is afraid of a binding treaty? Stumbling Blocks on the Accountability of Transnational Corporations by Sara Martinetto

Editor's note: Sara Martinetto is an intern at T.M.C. Asser Institute. She has recently completed her LLM in Public International Law at the University of Amsterdam. She holds interests in Migration Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights and European Law, with a special focus on their transnational dimension.

 

Since the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of Resolution 26/9 in 2014, an Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (WG) is working on a binding Treaty capable of holding transnational corporations accountable for human rights abuses. Elaborating on the proposal presented by Ecuador and South Africa, the WG has been holding periodical sessions. In much trepidation for what is supposed to be the start of substantive negotiations – scheduled for October 23-27, 2017 – it is worth summarising and highlighting the struggles this new instrument is likely to encounter, and investigating whether (and how) such an agreement could foster transnational corporations’ (TNCs) human rights compliance. More...

The Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile. Taming transnational supply chains via corporate due diligence.

The six months between 2012 and 2013 represented a turning point for the garment industry. On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1100 workers. Just a year before, more than 350 garment workers died in two factory fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh. These three tragedies, among the deadliest industrial disasters in recent times, generated a previously unseen level of outrage to which followed a considerable mobilisation by civil society, business communities, States, and international organisations. Apart from the horror stemming from the loss of lives, mostly of young women, the three catastrophes were particularly shocking for Western audiences as they exposed our ignorance and even complicity. It turned out that we - the consumers – turn a blind eye to the working conditions, including health and safety, of garment workers. Thereafter, it was impossible to ignore that well-known brands we regularly purchase were connected to these production sites, which were regular suppliers of many European and American clothing companies. More...

Doing Business Right Event! Supply chain regulation in the garment industry on 29 June @Asser Institute

The negative impact on human rights of what we wear is not always well-known to the consumer. Our clothing consumption has increased over five times since the Nineties. At the same time, the business model of certain fashion brands is too often dependent on widespread human rights and labour rights violations to be profitable, cheap, and fast. The 2013 tragedy of Rana Plaza, where more than 1100 garment workers died, gives us just a small hint of the true costs of our clothes and footwear. Efforts by governments to tame the negative effects of transnational supply chains have proven difficult due to the extreme delocalisation of production, and the difficulty to even be aware of a company’s last tier of suppliers in certain developing countries. More...

Why Doing Business Right?

Doing Business has been a (if not the) core concern for the post-WWII world order, leading up to contemporary economic globalisation and the ‘free’ movement of goods, capital and ideas across the globe. With our research project, and the launch of this companion blog, we aim to shift the focus towards Doing Business Right. Thanks to the financial crisis in 2008, there is growing awareness of the fact that Doing Business can lead to extremely adverse social and economic consequences. The trust in Doing Business as a cure-all to modernize, democratize, or civilize the world is fading. Moreover, the damaging externalities prompted by the operation of transnational economic activity are more and more visible. It has become harder, nowadays, to ignore the environmental and social consequences triggered elsewhere by our consumption patterns or by our reliance on certain energy industries. What does Doing Business Right mean? How does the law respond to the urge to do business right? What are the legal mechanisms used, or that could be used, to ensure that business is done in the right way? Can transnational business activity even be subjected to law in a globalized world?

This blog will offer an academic platform for scholars and practitioners interested in these questions. With your help we aim to investigate the multiple legal and regulatory constructs affecting transnational business conduct - ranging from public international law to internal corporate practices. We will do so by hosting in-depth case studies, but also more theoretical takes on the normative underpinnings of the idea of Doing Business Right. We aim to be inclusive in methodological terms, and believe that private and public, as well as national and international, legal (and...) scholars should come together to tackle a genuinely transnational phenomenon. Future posts will cover issues as diverse as national, EU, international, transnational regulations - including self-regulation, voluntary codes, and market-based regulatory instruments  - applying to transnational business conduct. Case law from the CJEU, international tribunals (ICJ, arbitral tribunals) and national courts, as well as decisions from international organisations, national agencies (such as competition authorities) will be recurring objects of discussion and analysis. Yet, our perspective is not solely focused on the (traditional) law: management practices of  companies and their effects will also be scrutinized.

This blog is thought as an open discursive space to engage and debate with a wide variety of actors and perspectives. We hope to get the attention of those who care about Doing Business Right, and to provide useful intellectual and legal weapons for their endeavours.

The Editors:

Antoine Duval is a Senior researcher at the Asser Institute since 2014. He holds a PhD from the European University Institute in Florence in which he scrutinized the interaction between EU law and the transnational private regulation of world sport, the lex sportiva. His research is mainly focused on transnational legal theory, international arbitration, and private regulation.  

Enrico Partiti is researcher at the Asser Institute since 2017. He holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam on private standards for sustainability. His research interest lies at the intersection of EU and international economic law on the one hand, and private regulation for sustainability on the other. He studies the interactions and reciprocal influence between transnational public and private norms, and how they determine and impact on social and environmental sustainability in global value chains.