It’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.
This week’s post includes: a look ahead at the upcoming UN Forum on Business and Human Rights; a decision in the Nevsun case by the British Columbia Court of Appeal; and the first decision by a NCP to hear a complaint focused on the impacts of climate change.
- The 2017 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights will be held next week in Geneva from November 27-29. The Forum has been held each year since 2011, when it was launched by the UN Human Rights Council in order to provide a place for dialogue regarding implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This year’s forum will focus on access to effective remedy for those whose rights are negatively impacted by business activity. Specifically, this year’s Forum “will examine gaps and shortcomings in existing efforts as well as emerging good practices and innovations to ensure access to effective remedy, with a view to promoting policy coherence and committed action in the service of human rights and rights-holders.” A full program is available here.
- On November 21, the British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal filed by Nevsun Resources Ltd., a mining company, of an earlier decision that found that the company may appropriately be brought to trial in Canadian court for alleged acts of forced labor and other labor abuses at the Bisha Mine in Eritrea. Nevsun had argued that plaintiffs’ claims should be brought in Eritrean court, but the company’s petition to have the case dismissed on the basis of forum non conveniens was dismissed. The Court of Appeals found that the lower court “did not err in finding a ‘real risk’ of corruption and unfairness in the Eritrean legal system.”
- On November 15, the Dutch National Contact Point (“NCP”) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises announced that it had accepted a complaint filed against ING Bank by several civil society organizations, including Oxfam, Greenpeace, and BankTrack. The complaint alleges that ING Bank’s failure to adequately report on, and reduce, the impact of its investments on climate change is a violation of the OECD Guidelines. This is the first time that a NCP has accepted a complaint specifically linked to climate change.
- On November 15, MSI Integrity, in partnership with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, released the final version of its MSI Evaluation Tool. The tool was developed over five years through consultation with external stakeholders and several pilot tests. It is intended to provide a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder initiatives (“MSIs”) as platforms for the protection of human rights. With the release of the tool, MSI Integrity also launched a companion document, The Essential Elements of MSI Design.
- On November 13, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of States, part of the Swiss Parliament, announced that it would consider a bill establishing formal human rights due diligence requirements for companies. Any future statute is also expected to establish liability for parent companies for human right abuses committed by subsidiaries. This proposal by the Legal Affairs Committee comes after the Swiss Federal Council announced in September that it did not want to move forward in establishing a constitutional amendment requiring human rights due diligence. The constitutional amendment had been proposed through the Responsible Business Initiative, a popular initiative that was submitted to the Federal Council and the Swiss Parliament in October 2016.
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