FAQ

WHAT DO HUMAN RIGHTS HAVE TO DO WITH BUSINESSES OPERATING ABROAD?

As in practice it is often difficult to obtain justice in the countries where human rights violations occur, a necessity for a proper solution for victim redress has emerged. Jurisdiction is the first and the main hurdle towards obtaining redress. As recent litigation has proved (e.g. the Shell Nigeria case), one of the main litigation problems in the EU for claimant-victims is the fact that European parent companies domiciled in the EU take advantage of the corporate veil and act abroad through subsidiaries, which are often in fact the ones that carry out the harmful activities. As a result, victims cannot in principle claim against the EU based parent company, because the subsidiary has its own legal personality. On the other hand, subsidiaries abroad cannot be sued in EU tribunals either, because the tribunals of the country where the EU based parent company is domiciled cannot assert jurisdiction against them given the fact that subsidiaries are not domiciled in the EU. There is, thus, ample room for research, not only on possible reforms of EU and Member States’ Regulations but also on possible alternative non-judicial mechanisms that may provide an effective forum for victims seeking access to justice and redress.

WHAT ARE THE EXPECTED RESULTS OF THE PROJECT?

Several positive outcomes of the research, training events and dissemination activities are expected. As concerning research, we will issue a final report based on four main research areas: 1) EU jurisdictional issues (Brussels I) pertaining to HRs litigation; 2) EU applicable law issues (Rome II); 3) the potential of non-judicial mechanisms (corporate grievance mechanisms and international arbitration); and 4) corporate obligations and human rights due diligence.  This research will hopefully trigger policy discussions at the EU level and also encourage more study in this field by other institutions and individuals. Through training, we expect to achieve a better-trained judiciary; more prepared counsel; and informed NGOs. Through dissemination, we hope to inform the general public about the state of human rights protection and MNCs of the legal and economic risks that human rights violations entail as well as substantive and procedural rights and obligations in accordance with the law.

WHO ARE THE STAKEHOLDERS?

Everyone really. There is a need to inform the general public about the state of human rights protection and raise awareness about these problems. Better informed consumers will probably make corporations change, to a certain extent, and will make governments pay more attention to human rights and corporate social responsibility issues. The project’s training sessions will specifically target judges, lawyers, NGOs, business practitioners and policy makers.

WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN DIMENSION OF THE PROJECT?

Research will be done in the field of cross border human rights litigation before European civil (non-criminal) courts of justice. Training will be addressed to European judges and practitioners, civil society, as well as European business representatives, prioritizing those responsible for the Corporate Social Responsibility departments of European multinational corporations (MNCs).

WHAT ARE THE UNITED NATIONS GUIDING PRINCIPLES ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS AND TO WHOM DO THEY APPLY?

Unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011, the UNGP´s are a set of universal Human Rights standards applicable to any business conduct.
The 31 individual Guiding Principles and associated commentaries apply to States and business enterprises regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure and encourages them to implement the Protect-Respect-Remedy Framework that the United Nations had endorsed in 2008. This text describes the State duty to protect HRs, the corporate social responsibility to respect HRs and the need to ensure access to an appropriate remedy for victims.

HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?

We want to hear from you! Your feedback, ideas and stories are valuable. Please feel free to get in touch with us via contact section. You can follow our training events via live streaming and publications through this website.