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.
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
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’.
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
and International Business Operations’,
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...
Editor’s note: Abdurrahman is currently working for Doing Business
Right project at the Asser Institute as an intern. He received his LL.M.
International and European Law from Tilburg University and currently he is
a Research Master student at the same university.
2011 update of the OECD Guidelines
for Multinational Enterprises (hereinafter
‘Guidelines’-for some introductory information, see here) introduced
various changes to the 2000 text of the Guidelines, including a whole new
chapter on human rights in line with the UN
Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
National Contact Points (NCPs) - non-binding, state-based, non-judicial
grievance mechanisms established by the adhering states - have since then
60 cases submitted under the newly-introduced human rights
NCP believes that the issues raised in a submission merit further
consideration, it accepts the complaint, prepares an initial assessment report
and offers its good offices to the parties of the complaint. Parties may reject the
offer, accept the offer but fail to reach an agreement in the mediation or, if
everything goes well, reach an agreement. In any of these scenarios, the NCP
concludes the specific instance with a final assessment report. Between the initial and
final assessment reports, however, NCPs are not required to communicate details
of the ongoing mediations to the public. Nor do they have to provide any
specific details about the agreement of the parties, if at all, along with or
after the final report.
to promote the effectiveness of the Guidelines, to handle enquiries and to use a
complaint procedure (so-called specific instance procedure) to facilitate
settlements of disputes that may arise in case of non-compliance with the
Guidelines by enterprises. Although to provide effective remedies to victims of
business-related human rights abuses is not explicitly included among their
aims, NCPs have the potential to serve as a forum to which victims can turn to
obtain effective remedies. They can receive
complaints alleging the violation of internationally recognized human rights
and offer mediation to the parties of the complaint to find a solution on which
both parties agree upon.
more than 20 out of these approximately 60 cases concluded, parties to the
dispute reached a settlement through a mediation procedure facilitated by the
NCP. These cases are considered ‘successful’ or ‘positive’ by the OECD. But can these really be
considered as such?
Do the NCPs function as an effective grievance mechanism which provides
access to remedies to victims of business-related human rights abuses in the
cases they have settled? Or were these cases found successful only because the
NCPs dealing with them claim so, regardless of the actual remedies provided? In
this blog, I will elaborate on the concept of ‘success’ as used by the OECD and
how the cloudy nature of the procedure raises questions about the successful
conclusion of the cases and of the role of NCPs in this regard.More...
Editor’s note: Constance Kwant is an experienced international lawyer who has worked as in-house senior legal counsel for a top tier international financial institution in both Hong Kong and the Netherlands. She has a specific interest in sustainable business and human rights, including responsible finance.
This post aims to outline, briefly analyse and to provide a critical comment in relation to striking a balance between confidentiality and transparency in the procedure followed by the Dutch National Contact Point (‘NCP’) in the Specific instance procedure filed in December 2015 by three former employees (‘Representatives’) on behalf of a group of 168 former employees of Heineken’s subsidiary Bralima SA (‘Bralima’) in Bakavu, located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (‘DRC’).
The case, finalised in August 2017, concerns alleged violations of labour and human rights by Bralima in the period 1999-2003, a period during which the DRC was a highly volatile and conflict-affected country, where the eastern part of the DRC was effectively under control of rebel movement DRC-Goma.The complaint also alleged that Bralima had cooperated with DRC-Goma in a number of ways throughout this period. On the basis of the alleged violations, the Representatives sought financial compensation by filing its notification with the NCP.
Since the allegations were brought forward to the NCP under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, this post will first provide short background information on the OECD Guidelines and the workings of the Dutch NCP, subsequently moving through the proceedings, its outcome, and a brief analysis with a critical note. More...
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...
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.