The EU Parliament’s proposal for a Regulation on Forest and Ecosystem Risk Commodities - Tackling global deforestation though due diligence - By Enrico Partiti

Editor's note: Enrico Partiti is Assistant Professor of Transnational Regulation and Governance at Tilburg University and Associate Fellow at the Asser Institute. His expertise centres on European and international economic law, sustainability and supply chain regulation. In particular, he studies how private standard-setters and corporations regulate globally sustainability and human rights 

Upcoming Event: Fighting global deforestation through due diligence: towards an EU regulation on forest and ecosystem risk commodities? - 4 November 2020 - 16:00 (CET) - Register Here!

The recent vote in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee of the European Parliament on binding legislation to stop EU-driven global deforestation is a watershed moment in the global fight against deforestation, ecosystem conversion and associated human rights violations. The ENVI Committee report, that will soon be voted by the plenary, requests the Commission (as provided in Art. 225 TFEU) to table a legislative proposal for a measure disciplining the placing on the EU market of products associated to forest and ecosystem conversion and degradation, as well as violations of indigenous communities’ human rights. The Parliament’s initiative takes place in a policy context increasingly concerned with deforestation, in the framework of a Commission Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests which left a door open for legislative intervention. 

The proposed measure would aim to severe the economic link between demand of agricultural commodities, especially by large consumers markets, and negative environmental impacts - including on climate change. Beef, soy and palm oil alone are responsible for 80% of tropical deforestation, and consequent CO2 emissions. In 2014, EU demand was responsible for 41% of global imports of beef, 25% of palm oil and 15% of soy, as well as large shares of other commodities at high risk for forests and ecosystems such as such as maize (30%), cocoa (80%), coffee (60%), and rubber (25%). Protecting just forests is not sufficient, as it risks to displace conversion to other non-forests ecosystems such as the Brazilian cerrado. In light of their negative impact on both forests and other natural ecosystems, such commodities have been labeled as forest and ecosystem risks commodities (FERCs). More...

The EU Conflict Minerals Regulation: Challenges for Achieving Mineral Supply Chain Due Diligence - By Daniel Iglesias Márquez

Editor’s note: Daniel Iglesias Márquez is an external researcher in Business and Human Rights at the Tarragona Centre for Environmental Law Studies. He holds a PhD from the Rovira Virgili University in Tarragona (Spain). Other main fields of interest include International Environmental Law, International Criminal Law and European law.

The EU and its Member States have largely endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy and have committed to supporting their implementation.[i] The UNGPs state that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate. Companies are therefore expected to take proactive steps to ensure that they do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses within their global operations and to respond to human rights abuses when they do occur. This implies establishing due diligence processes to identify, prevent, mitigate and record potential and actual adverse human rights impacts.

Although the EU has not played a constructive role at the Geneva negotiations for a UN Treaty on business and human rights,[ii] some modest developments in the right direction have been made at the EU level to foster a culture of ‘doing business right’ among companies in certain industrial sectors. Put differently, the EU has adopted regulations and directives that implement the UNGPs.

Due diligence requirements are the most common way of ensuring that business behavior meets social expectations. An example of this is the new EU Conflict Minerals Regulation (Regulation),[iii] which requires EU companies to ensure the responsible sourcing of minerals and metals. This EU law has an extraterritorial reach since due diligence requirements must be exercised by a company throughout its international supply chain. However, the Regulation raises a number of challenges ahead that may affect its purpose and implementation. More...

Ending torture and the death penalty through trade policy? The ambitious promise of the Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade - By Marie Wilmet

Editor's Note: Marie Wilmet is a research intern in Public International Law at the Asser Institute. She recently graduated from Leiden University’s LL.M. in Public International Law. Her main fields of interest include international criminal law, humanitarian law and human rights law as well as counterterrorism.

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade was launched on 18 September 2017, at the 72nd Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, by a common initiative of Argentina, the European Union (EU) and Mongolia. It aims at ending the trade in goods used to carry out the death penalty and torture. Indeed, even though torture is unlawful under public international law, these goods are currently available on the open market across the globe. By banning such tools from global trade, the Alliance hopes to reduce the possible human rights violations by complicating the perpetrators’ acquisition of the means to execute and torture people.

This initiative is part of a broader agenda both at the UN and EU level. It falls under the broader umbrella of UN projects such as the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights or the UN Global Compact. Moreover, the EU has tried in the recent years to strengthen the rule of law by conducting policies where trade and values are more interrelated. As the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström stated, “human rights cannot be treated as an afterthought when it comes to trade”.

This blog will first retrace the origins of the Alliance by outlining the current factual and legal framework surrounding torture, the death penalty and related trade. Then, the Alliance and its ambitions will be analysed, along with the chances of its effective implementation. 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...

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...