Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Call for Papers: International Human Rights Law and Business: Evaluating the Impact of UNGPs

The Human Rights Interest Group of the American Society of International Law has issued a call for papers for a workshop on "International Human Rights Law and Business: Evaluating the Impact of UNGPs," to take place March 29, 2016. Here's the call:

Human Rights Interest Group

American Society of International Law

Business and Human Rights Roundtable


‘International Human Rights Law and Business:

Evaluating the Impact of UNGPs’

29th March 2016

George Washington University, Washington DC, USA.

Call for Papers

Deadline 20th January 2016.

The Human Rights Interest Group of the American Society of International Law is delighted to announce that a Human Rights Workshop will take place on 29th March 2016 in advance of the ASIL 2016 Annual Meeting in Washington DC. The CoChairs and Executive Committee cordially invite the submission of proposals and abstracts on the theme of Business and Human Rights theory and practice, particular in respect of the UN Guiding Principles of Business in respect of Human Rights.

Roundtable details

Papers presented at the Roundtable will be selected through a competitive process by the Human Rights Interest Group Executive Committee. The selection process will be based exclusively on the scholarly merit of proposals received and priority will be given to unpublished papers and work in progress. We welcome proposals from practitioners, academics, and graduate students that are attentive to Roundtable theme outlined below. All other interested parties are invited to attend to observe and participate in the proceedings of the Roundtable discussion.

Theme: The case for a covenant directly binding on corporations?

In 2014, at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Resolution A/HRC/26/L.22/Rev.1 for the “Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights” was passed. The resolution establishes an open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. The IGWG’s mandate is to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of “Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.”

The resolution follows from a statement made the previous year at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council on behalf of the African Group, the Arab Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. Therein it was stated: “We are mindful that soft law instruments such as the Guiding Principles and the creation of the Working Group with limited powers to undertake monitoring of corporate compliance with the Principles are only a partial answer to the pressing issues relating to human rights abuses by transnational corporations. These principles and mechanisms fell short of addressing properly the problem of lack of accountability regarding Transnational Corporations worldwide and the absence of adequate legal remedies for victims.”

Exactly what method of reform the IGWG will pursue is unclear from the 2014 Resolution. Proposals for an entirely new jurisdiction over corporations have been dismissed as suitably radical yet unsuitably unrealistic. Identified avenues for enhanced judicial mechanism include: (i) National mechanisms overseen by regional human rights commissioners (appointed by the UNHRC or the regional human rights courts); (ii) specialised permanent tribunals at a regional level with some level of harmonization across tribunals and judges from the existing regional human rights courts; (iii) the extension of the Rome Statute in the International Criminal Court (ICC) to apply to corporate, as well as natural persons; and/or (iv) a corporate human rights chamber based at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. Yet irrespective of lack of political support, some maintain that a reconfiguration to make corporations directly accountable is unworkable as a system of international law. John Ruggie, former UN Special Representative on Human Rights, asserts that the UN expert group on business and human rights simply needs more time to complete their mandate and for the impact of the norms to show.

This roundtable seeks to address some of the inconvenient questions in relation to the UNGPs. In particular:

  • Do the UNGPs over greater protection than that existing under the ICESCR?
  • Have they been integrated into domestic jurisprudence and to what effect?
  • What are the obstacles to their integration at the domestic level and can these be overcome?
  • What is the meaning of ‘due diligence’ at the centre of the UNGPs?
  • How does the UNGPs discourse intersect with the extraterritorial obligations discourse?
  • Ultimately are stronger mechanisms necessary, as is argued by the newly established intergovernmental working group at the UN Human Rights Council?

Call for Proposals and Abstracts

Each submission should include an abstract of the proposed presentation of no more than 700 words and a short CV, both in English. Applications should be submitted in a WORD or PDF format. They should be emailed to Dr. Siobhan McInerney Lankford and Dr. Kirsteen Shields at hrig.asil@gmail.com. Please indicate “2016 ASIL HRIG Roundtable” in the subject line of the email.

Deadline: The deadline for submission of proposals is 20th January 2016. The outcome of the selection process will be notified to successful applicants by 1st February 2016.