Global Modern Slavery Developments (Part III): Other Modern Slavery Developments - 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 and a contributor to the Doing Business Right project of the Asser Institute. 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.


The introduction of the UK, Australian and NSW Modern Slavery Acts are part of the international trend towards greater regulation and transparency of modern slavery in corporate supply chains and operations. For example, Canada has recently introduced a modern slavery bill and Brazil introduced a ‘dirty list’ to name and shame companies that engage in slave labour back in 2004. This last blog of a series of articles dedicated to the global modern slavery developments focuses on the modern slavery developments in jurisdictions other than the UK and Australia. More...



Global Modern Slavery Developments (Part I): A Critical Review of the UK Modern Slavery Act - 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 and a contributor to the Doing Business Right project of the Asser Institute. 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.



Over the past couple of years, there has been an international trend towards greater regulation and transparency with respect to modern slavery in corporate supply chains as reports of gross human rights violations in corporate supply chains have entered the public spotlight. For example, over the past couple of years there has been extensive media attention in relation to the use of slaves trafficked from Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Myanmar to work on Thai fishing boats to catch fish to be sold around the globe, with the boats considered to be ‘floating labor camps’. As a result of events such as this, there has been increased pressure on businesses to take steps to address modern slavery in their supply chains through processes such as through conducting risk assessments and due diligence.

As the Ethical Trading Initiative notes, key risks facing companies in their supply chains include the use of migrant workers; the use of child labour; recruitment fees and debt bondage; the use of agency workers and temporary labour; working hours and wages; and the use of subcontractors. In 2016 the Global Slavery Index reported that 40.3 million people are living in modern slavery across 167 countries, and in 2014 the ILO estimated that forced labour in the private economy generates US$150 billion in illegal profits per year.

In March 2015, the UK Government passed the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the Act), game-changing legislation that targets, inter alia, slavery and trafficking in corporate supply chains. The UK Government also published guidance explaining how businesses should comply with the Act.

This first blog of a series of articles dedicated to the global modern slavery developments provides an overview of the main elements of the Act and how businesses have responded to it. It will be followed by a review of the proposed Australian MSA, and a final piece on the developments in other jurisdictions that are considering introducing legislation regulating modern slavery in the corporate context. More...



Transparency vs. Confidentiality: Why There Is a Need for More Transparent OECD National Contact Points - By Abdurrahman Erol

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.


  1. Introduction

The 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 concluded approximately 60 cases submitted under the newly-introduced human rights chapter.

If an 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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

NCPs aim 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.[4] 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.

In 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.[5] 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...



International Arbitration of Business and Human Rights Disputes: Part 2 - Advantages and challenges - 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. This Part 2 focuses on (1) the potential advantages of using international arbitration to resolve such disputes, as well as (2) the substantial challenges the proposal will face in practice. Part 3 will then provide a case study of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’s binding arbitration process. More...

Is HEINEKEN truly “Brewing a Better World”? The BRALIMA case before the Dutch National Contact Point - By Constance Kwant

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.

 

Introduction

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...