Some Reflections on the Potential Impact of TTIP on Access to Justice

By Dr. Anil Yilmaz Vastardis

On 16-17 May 2016, I participated in a multi-disciplinary workshop on ‘Law, neoliberalism and social protest: lessons from TTIP’ at the University of Brighton. This workshop was co- organized by myself and Prof Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, and it was followed by a public debate on TTIP as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. The workshop benefited from the participation of Prof Diamond Ashiagbor, Dr Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Paul Gilbert, John Hilary, Prof Sheldon Leader, Sam Lowe, Prof David Schneiderman, Dr Gabriel Siles-Brugge, Prof M. Sornarajah, Dr Neil Stammers and Ntina Tzouvala.

TTIP is a comprehensive trade and investment partnership currently being negotiated by the US and the EU. The negotiations are led by the EU Commission on behalf of the EU and the USTR on behalf of the US Government. Agreements like TTIP aim at increased integration of markets, by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, as well as by providing guarantees for the protection of foreign investment. This of course is a means to an end, i.e. it is predicted that integration will lead to growth of the economy and the creation of jobs which will then lead to increased welfare.

If TTIP is predicted to have such positive effects on society, why all the controversy? Critics of TTIP have a number of concerns. A common worry is that the negotiators are not taking fundamental rights of the public seriously.  Among the major criticisms are: (1) the harmonization of standards through a ‘race to the bottom’; (2) lack of appropriate levels of transparency and inclusiveness of all stakeholders in the drafting process; (3) limitation of the regulatory space of states to take measures in the public interest via the investor protection rules that give investors rights (applied by investment tribunals outside the domestic legal system), but no obligations. The participants of the workshop discussed critically the process of negotiation and drafting of the TTIP, and certain controversial aspects of its proposed content. Continue reading

The Devil in the Detail: The debate on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in Malawi

By Alan Msosa

Introduction

The current debate on homosexuality in Malawi has exposed the government’s failure to come up with a position on whether LGBT people deserve genuine and effective human rights protection. As a result, Malawi is slowly losing gains achieved so far in its efforts to facilitate protection of LGBT rights. Unless the government comes up with a firm and consistent position, prospects for moving forward are under threat. Continue reading

New Report Critiques the UK National Contact Point’s Handling of Human Rights Complaints under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Citing Over-Zealous Rejection of Complaints at Initial Assessment

By Rachel Chambers

The OECD National Contact Point (NCP) is a non-judicial mechanism intended to hold companies to account over breaches of international standards set by the OECD on labour rights, human rights, the environment and corruption, among others. To-date, 46 governments have adopted the Guidelines, and the prominence of this mechanism has been widely acknowledged. For example, in June 2015 the G7 leaders made a declaration calling for the strengthening of NCPs in the context of providing access to remedy.

The UK NCP has a good reputation particularly since 2008 when its processes were strengthened. A complaint is brought by filling in a form which is available on the NCP’s website. The NCP offers professional mediation in suitable cases and, where mediation fails or is not taken up by the parties, examination of the complaint and determination of whether or not the Guidelines have been breached. There is follow up by the NCP a year after examination of a complaint to assess progress on the issues raised.

However, a recent Amnesty International report charts a decline in the NCP’s performance since 2011. Through an in-depth analysis of all the complaints brought to the NCP in this period, the report examines procedural and substantive concerns about the NCP process from the perspective of complainants. Continue reading

Highlights of the 157th period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

By Dr. Clara Sandoval & Paola Limón

Dr. Clara Sandoval and Paola Limón, members of the Human Rights Centre and the School of Law at the University of Essex, were present at the 157th regular period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as part of their research activities under the ESRC-funded Human Rights Law Implementation Project (HRLIP) and the Leverhulme-funded Inter-American Human Rights Network. This blog will address some of the notable outcomes from this session, with a particular focus on efforts to address the backlog within the Inter-American system. Continue reading

The human rights ‘win’ at the UNGASS on drugs that no one is talking about, and how we can use it

By Rick Lines and Damon Barret

The April 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem offered a unique opportunity to re-examine the approach of punitive suppression that underpins global drug control.  As the first such meeting to be held since 1998, it was a chance to set a new course, leaving behind what the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has called the negative ‘unintended consequences’ of the ‘war on drugs’.

Part of setting a new course must mean bringing human rights into the heart of drug control.  For too long, States have approached international drug control law in isolation, as if these obligations exist separate and apart from the broader framework of international law, and may be interpreted and applied as if no overlapping treaty obligations come into play.  This approach has contributed to the growth of human rights violations linked to drug control in all regions of the world – the death penalty; torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; arbitrary detention; denial of due process rights; violations of the right to health; mass incarceration; and many more. Continue reading