The Proposed Binding Business and Human Rights Treaty: Reactions to the Draft - By Shamistha Selvaratnam

Editor’s note: Shamistha Selvaratnam is a LLM Candidate of the Advanced Masters of European and International Human Rights Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Prior to commencing the LLM, she worked as a business and human rights solicitor in Australia where she specialised in promoting business respect for human rights through engagement with policy, law and practice.

 

Since the release of the first draft of the BHR Treaty (from herein referred to as the ‘treaty’), a range of views have been exchanged by commentators in the field in relation to the content of the treaty (a number of them are available on a dedicated page of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s website). While many have stated that the treaty is a step in the right direction to imposing liability on businesses for human rights violations, there are a number of critiques of the first draft, which commentators hope will be rectified in the next version.

This second blog of a series of articles dedicated to the proposed BHR Treaty provides a review of the key critiques of the treaty. It will be followed by a final blog outlining some recommendations for the working group’s upcoming negotiations between 15 to 19 October 2018 in Geneva. More...

The Proposed Binding Business and Human Rights Treaty: Introducing the Draft - By Shamistha Selvaratnam

Editor’s note: Shamistha Selvaratnam is a LLM Candidate of the Advanced Masters of European and International Human Rights Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Prior to commencing the LLM, she worked as a business and human rights solicitor in Australia where she specialised in promoting business respect for human rights through engagement with policy, law and practice.

By resolution, on 26 June 2014 the UN Human Rights Council adopted Ecuador’s proposal to establish an inter-governmental working group mandated ‘to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises’. The proposal was adopted by 20 to 14 votes, with 13 abstentions, and four years later, in July this year, the working group published the first draft of the treaty (from herein referred to as the ‘treaty’). Shortly after, the draft Optional Protocol to the draft treaty was released. The Optional Protocol focuses on access to remedy for victims of human rights abuses by businesses.

This first blog of a series of articles dedicated to the proposed BHR Treaty provides an overview of the main elements of the draft. It will be followed by a review of the reactions to the Draft, and a final piece outlining some recommendations for the upcoming negotiations. More...

The Dutch Banking Sector Agreement on Human Rights: Changing the Paradigm from ‘Opportunity to Affect’ to ‘Responsibility to Respect’ – By Benjamin Thompson

Editor’s note: Benjamin Thompson is a PhD candidate in business and human rights at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. His PhD research deals with the effects of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights' endorsement of operational level, non-judicial grievance mechanisms and their role in improving access to remedy. He recently published an article for Utrecht Law Review’s Special Issue on Accountability of Multinational Corporations for Human Rights Abuses which discussed the roles the new Dutch multistakeholder initiative with the Dutch banking sector might play in improving banks’ performance with respect to human rights.


In November of last year the Asser Institute offered me the opportunity to take part in a roundtable on the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement (DBA), as part of their Doing Business Right Project. Signed in December 2017, the DBA is a collaboration between the banking sector, the government, trade unions and civil society organisations (CSOs), all based within the Netherlands: the first of its kind. It focuses on banks’ responsibility to respect human rights, as stipulated in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines), within their corporate lending and project finance activities. The DBA has been something of a hot topic in business and human rights circles. However, it has not yet published a public monitoring report, making any evaluation of its performance at this stage difficult. During the roundtable, we discussed the role of the DBA as a potential means to improve the practices of Dutch banks with respect to human rights. A key challenge identified from this discussion, as reported here, was the various ‘interpretive ambiguities inherent in the UNGPs’. A key conclusion was that ‘further dialogue is required... to ascertain what conduct on the part of the banks is consistent with international obligations’.

This is not a unique conclusion to arise from multistakeholder discussions on banks and human rights; the discussion often focuses on what financial institutions are required to do to meet their responsibility to respect human rights under the UNGPs. So much so that questions concerning implementation or evaluation are often left by the wayside. As a result, when presenting my research on the DBA for the Utrecht Centre of Accountability and Liability Law’s Conference on ‘Accountability and International Business Operations’, published here, I decided to focus on how the DBA had responded to those key points of friction where there is the greatest disagreement between how different stakeholders conceive banks’ human rights responsibilities. This blog post seeks to build on this previous entry, hopefully without too much repetition. More...



Business and Human Rights Internship - Asser Institute - Deadline for Application 10 August

We are looking for a new business and human rights intern starting early September 2018 for a period of at least three months, preferably full-time. The Internship will be based at the Asser Institute in The Hague.


Main tasks:

  • Contribute and develop research outputs within the Asser research project ‘Doing Business Right’, especially for the blog;
  • Assistance in day-to-day maintenance of social media accounts linked to the ‘Doing Business Right’ project;
  • Assistance in organizing upcoming events (workshops, lectures);
  • Assist in legal research and analysis in the frame of academic publications.

Interested candidates should have:

  • Demonstrated interest in legal issues lying at the intersection of transnational business, human rights, private international law, and global value chains regulation. An interest in transnational law and private regulations are an advantage;
  • Solid academic and non-academic writing skills, research and analytical skills;
  • A master degree in EU law, private or public international law or international relations;
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English, preferably at a native speaker level;
  • Experience with managing websites and social media communication is of an advantage.

What we offer:

  • A stipend, based on the level of education completed;
  • Exposure to the academic activities of the research strand ‘Advancing public interests in international and European law’, and the T.M.C Asser Instituut, a leading research centre in International and European law;
  • An inspiring, dynamic and multicultural working environment.


Interested candidates should apply by email, sending a motivation letter and CV in English, a sample of academic writing (master’s thesis or paper from a course relevant to the topics of the research project ‘Doing Business Right’) to both A.Duval@asser.nl and E.Partiti@asser.nl.


Deadline for application is 10 August 2018, 12.00 PM CET.


Please note: We cannot offer assistance in obtaining residence and work permits for the duration of the internship.

Doing Business Right – Monthly Report – May 2018 - By Abdurrahman Erol

Introduction

This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on Doing Business Right based on the coverage provided on our twitter feed @DoinBizRight and on various websites. You are invited to contribute to this compilation via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.

Highlights

OECD Due Diligence Guidance released

On 31 May, the OECD published “OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct”. Issued after a multi-stakeholder process with OECD and non-OECD countries and representatives from business, trade unions and civil society, the guidance provides practical knowledge to businesses on due diligence recommendations and related provisions of the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The guidance also aims at aligning different approaches of governments and stakeholders to due diligence for responsible business conduct by promoting a common understanding.More...

New Policy Brief - The Case for a Court of Arbitration for Business and Human Rights - By Antoine Duval & Catherine Dunmore

Two members of the Doing Business Right team, Antoine Duval and Catherine Dunmore have just published a policy brief feeding into the current debates on the use (and usefulness) of arbitration in the business and human rights context. More precisely, the brief makes the case for the creation of a single Court of Arbitration for Business and Human Rights. 

Here is the abstract: 

This policy brief makes the case for a single Court of Arbitration for Business and Human Rights (CABHR). It first highlights the challenges faced by victims of human rights violations caused or directly linked to the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs) in accessing effective remedy. It then discusses the opportunities and challenges in using arbitration to provide a remedy in the business and human rights context. If arbitration is to be used, we argue that it should be in the framework of a single CABHR, which could draw some inspiration from the structure and operation of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The policy brief concludes by highlighting four core issues which stakeholders should focus on in the process of setting up a CABHR.

You can download the paper for free on SSRN.

Doing Business Right – Monthly Report – January 2018 - By Catherine Dunmore

Editor's Note: Catherine Dunmore is an experienced international lawyer who practised international arbitration for multinational law firms in London and Paris. She recently received her LL.M. from the University of Toronto and her main fields of interest include international criminal law and human rights. Since October 2017, she is part of the team of the Doing Business Right project at the Asser Institute.

Introduction

This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on Doing Business Right based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @DoinBizRight. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.


We are looking for a new intern! More information here.


The Headlines

Landmark High Court case against UK mining company over alleged Sierra Leone worker abuse

On 29 January 2018, a landmark six week hearing began at the High Court in London in a case brought by 142 claimants from Sierra Leone against Tonkolili Iron Ore, a subsidiary of the UK based African Minerals. The case involves allegations of worker abuse in 2010 and 2012 at the Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine in Sierra Leone, including complicity in rape, assault, false imprisonment and the police murder of a protestor complaining over pay and conditions. Human Rights Watch previously reported how the government and African Minerals forcibly relocated hundreds of families from verdant slopes to a flat, arid area, thereby removing their ability to cultivate crops and engage in income generating activities. The claimants’ lawyers, Leigh Day, stated that the case “demonstrates that those companies headquartered in the UK that operate abroad in rural and isolated environments can be held to account when their operations face serious allegations of human rights abuses”. Tonkolili Iron Ore denies responsibility for the incidents against workers and villagers and claims full responsibility lies with the Sierra Leone police. Unusually, the trial will see the judge, Mr Justice Turner, travelling to Freetown for two weeks so that evidence can be taken from witnesses in person, after some witnesses were unable to obtain visas for the United Kingdom.

West Kalimantan villagers file complaint against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

On 23 January 2018, a complaint was filed with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s national contact point in Switzerland by an Indonesian community rights group against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for its failure to address complaints made by residents of two West Kalimantan villages. The indigenous Dayak community in Kerunang and Entapang villages had previously filed an urgent complaint with the RSPO accusing one of its members, Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby, of stealing their tribal land through its subsidiary Mitra Austral Sejahtera. They allege that Mitra Austral Sejahtera breached the RSPO Principles and Criteria for the Production of Sustainable Palm Oil relating to commitment to transparency, compliance with applicable laws and regulations and responsible consideration of employees, and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills. It is alleged that the RSPO failed to respond to the request for the return of tribal lands and accordingly failed to meet its obligations under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Sime Darby has stated that the land dispute has been discussed at the RSPO's annual meetings since 2012, and that it looks “forward to the cooperation of the communities towards ensuring that the eventual return of their land is socially, environmentally and economically viable”. More...




Internship in Business and Human Rights - Apply by 15 February

We are looking for an intern starting1 March 2018 for a period of at least three months, preferably full-time.


Main tasks:

  • Contribute and develop research outputs within the Asser research project ‘Doing Business Right’, especially for the blog;
  • Assistance in day-to-day maintenance of social media accounts linked to the ‘Doing Business Right’ project;
  • Assistance in organizing upcoming events (workshops, lectures);
  • Assist in legal research and analysis in the frame of academic publications.

Interested candidates should have:

  • Demonstrated interest in legal issues lying at the intersection of transnational business, human rights, private international law, and global value chains regulation. An interest in transnational law and private regulations are an advantage;
  • Solid academic and non-academic writing skills, research and analytical skills;
  • A master degree in EU law, private or public international law or international relations;
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English, preferably at a native speaker level;
  • Experience with managing websites and social media communication is of an advantage.

What we offer:

  • A stipend, based on the level of education completed;
  • Exposure to the academic activities of the research strand ‘Advancing public interests in international and European law’, and the T.M.C Asser Instituut, a leading research centre in International and European law;
  • An inspiring, dynamic and multicultural working environment.

Interested candidates should apply by email, sending a motivation letter and CV in English, a sample of academic writing (master’s thesis or paper from a course relevant to the topics of the research project ‘Doing Business Right’) to directiesecretariaat@asser.nl Deadline for application is 15 February 2018, 12.00 PM CET.

Please note: We cannot offer assistance in obtaining residence and work permits for the duration of the internship.

Doing Business Right – Monthly Report – December 2017 - By Catherine Dunmore

Editor's Note: Catherine Dunmore is an experienced international lawyer who practised international arbitration for multinational law firms in London and Paris. She recently received her LL.M. from the University of Toronto and her main fields of interest include international criminal law and human rights. Since October 2017, she is part of the team of the Doing Business Right project at the Asser Institute.

Introduction

This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on Doing Business Right based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @DoinBizRight. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. More...

International Arbitration of Business and Human Rights Disputes: Part 3 - Case study of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’s binding arbitration process - By Catherine Dunmore

Editor's Note: Catherine Dunmore is an experienced international lawyer who practised international arbitration for multinational law firms in London and Paris. She recently received her LL.M. from the University of Toronto and her main fields of interest include international criminal law and human rights. Since October 2017, she is part of the team of the Doing Business Right project at the Asser Institute.

Background

At the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights from 27-29 November 2017 in Geneva, discussions focused on the central theme of Realizing Access to Effective Remedy. With an increasing focus on this third pillar of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, a working group of international law, human rights and conflict management specialists (Claes Cronstedt, Jan Eijsbouts, Adrienne Margolis, Steven Ratner, Martijn Scheltema and Robert C. Thompson) has spent several years exploring the use of arbitration to resolve business and human rights disputes. This culminated in the publication on 13 February 2017 of a proposal for International Business and Human Rights Arbitration. On 17 August 2017, a follow-up Questions and Answers document was published by the working group to address the principal questions raised about the proposal during the three-year consultation with stakeholders. Now, a drafting team is being assembled, chaired by Bruno Simma, to prepare a set of rules designed specifically for international business and human rights arbitration (the Hague International Business and Human Rights Arbitration Rules) in consultation with a wide range of business and human rights stakeholders. Once drafted, the rules will be offered to the Permanent Court of Arbitration and other international arbitration institutions and could be used in arbitration proceedings managed by parties on an ad hoc basis.


Introduction

Part 1 of this three-part blog series gave an overview introduction to the proposal for international business and human rights arbitration. Part 2 focused on the potential advantages of using international arbitration to resolve such disputes, as well as the substantial challenges the proposal will face in practice. This Part 3 now provides a case study of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’s binding arbitration process. More particularly, it will provide (1) a brief background to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, as well as (2) an analysis of its binding arbitration process, before (3) discussing the arbitrations brought by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union against two global fashion brands under the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. More...