Editor's Note: Raam is currently an intern with the Doing Business Right team at the Asser Institute. He recently received his LL.M. Advanced Studies in Public International Law (cum laude) from Leiden University and has worked at an international law firm in London on a range of debt capital markets transactions
The collapse of the Rana Plaza building on 24 April 2013 in Bangladesh left at least 1,134 people dead and over 2,500 others wounded, while survivors and the families of the dead continue to suffer trauma in the aftermath of the disaster. This first blog of our special series assesses the extent to which litigation and particular "soft" mechanisms have secured justice and compensation for victims and brought the relevant actors – whether global brands or individuals – to account for their alleged culpability for the collapse. To do this, it firstly examines the avenues that have been taken to hold corporations legally accountable in their home jurisdictions for their putative contributions to the collapse on the one hand, and individuals (particularly local actors) legally accountable before the courts in Bangladesh on the other. It then considers the effects of softer mechanisms aimed at compensating victims and their dependants. More...
Editor's note: Morshed Mannan is a Meijers PhD candidate at the Company Law department of Leiden Law School. He received his LL.M. Advanced Studies in International Civil and Commercial Law (cum laude) from Leiden University and has previously worked as a lawyer and lecturer in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Raam Dutia is currently an intern with the Doing Business Right team at the Asser Institute. He recently received his LL.M. Advanced Studies in Public International Law (cum laude) from Leiden University and has worked at an international law firm in London on a range of debt capital markets transactions.
For many, Uber epitomises the "move fast and break things" ethos of successful Silicon Valley start-ups. The company enters new markets before regulators are ready, capitalising on regulatory bottlenecks and uncertainties in numerous jurisdictions – only to enlist its enthusiastic customer base and other means to challenge regulators when they catch up. The backlash against this mode of operation has been severe, and boycotts and a litany of lawsuits appear to have dented Uber's image and plunged the company into crisis. Elisa Chiaro’s recent blogpost discussed the implications of platform economy enterprises, such as Uber, on the rights and protections of workers. In this, the first of a series of blogposts, we will take a broader view by exploring whether the company’s concerted efforts to conduct operations in a way that avoids or attempts to undermine local, state and national regulations shapes the law across the markets in which it operates. This will be done by appraising the growing literature on the effect of its regulatory arbitrage and evaluating whether the company’s use of algorithms, in conjunction with standardized service agreements, rider agreements and other contracts to govern the relationships between various stakeholders, establishes it as a source of transnational lawmaking within a large network of well-defined stakeholders: drivers, riders and civil society. Uber’s business practices and litigation in the UK will be used as a case study that is illustrative of broader trends. By doing so, we hope to contribute a deeper understanding of the patterns that have emerged through Uber’s local activities in several jurisdictions. In later entries, we will examine the response to these attempts at regulatory arbitrage and private ordering as well as the repercussions this has on the contemporary regulation of the platform economy. More...
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.
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.
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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...
Editor’s Note: Elisa Chiaro is a legal consultant focussing
on Business and Human Rights and International Criminal Law. In 2016 she
completed an LL.M. at SOAS, University of London. Before that she worked for
five years as international corporate lawyer both in Italy and UK. She is
admitted to the Bar in Italy.
discourse, the most pressing issues concerning human rights and business are often
associated with the developing countries to which manufacturing is outsourced.
However, the “western world” also faces new challenges as far as workers’
rights are concerned.
It is cheap and convenient for people to book a car ride or
order their favourite takeaway meal at a few swipes of their smartphone. App-based
service companies are thus very popular among consumers – and are consequently
flourishing. Conversely, some doubts have been cast on the fairness of the working
conditions of people contracted by these companies. A central issue in this
respect relates to the status of their workers, who on paper are self-employed,
but in reality are subject to the control of the company, a condition which
clashes with being independent. This post aims firstly to analyse the labour conditions
of gig economy workers in Europe, with a focus on some of the main service platforms,
namely Uber, Deliveroo, Foodora, and Hermes Parcels: the majority of these
companies, Uber in particular, are transnational, operating in many national
markets and adopting the same business model based on flexible work and lack of
security for workers in each market. Secondly, it will scrutinise how National
and European institutions and courts are augmenting gig economy workers’
conditions for the better. The issue is crucial in the UK, especially following
September’s decision by Transport of London (“TFL”) to reject Uber’s
application for a new London license, but legal disputes have also started in
other countries (in, among others, the UK, Italy and the USA). The UK
Parliament is also discussing the matter, and the EU Commission has started a
round table with trade unions and employers to find new solutions to address the
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
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''.
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...
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
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.
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.