Business & Human Rights: Access to Justice and Effective Remedies

Some of the largest multinational corporations now easily rival nation States in terms of economic power and influence. This development has resulted in increased efforts to impose stricter duties to respect human rights on private actors. As a response, the United Nations Human Rights Council established ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights’ in 2008. Under that framework, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were developed and published in 2011.

On 20 June 2016, the Council of the European Union adopted a conclusion on the subject, stating that ‘access to effective remedies for victims of business-related human rights abuses is of crucial importance and should be addressed in National Action Plans’. It also acknowledged that ‘further progress on this third pillar of the Guiding Principles [ie the duty to provide victims with access to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial] is necessary.’ Indeed, the Charter of Fundamental Rights also enshrines EU citizens’ ‘right to an effective remedy before a tribunal’ and that ‘[l]egal aid shall be made available to those who lack sufficient resources in so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice’.

Having already produced a Statement on Collective Redress (a supplemental version of which is planned for this proposed project) and considering that the ELI is currently running two projects that have strong connections to this field (ie The Principled Relationship of Formal and Informal Justice through the Courts and Alternative Dispute Resolution and From Transnational Principles to European Rules of Civil Procedure), the ELI felt compelled to address the call for clear legislative guidelines on how to improve access to effective and appropriate remedies when businesses violate human rights. A collaboration with the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), which has already adopted an opinion on the matter (on 10 April 2017), and the British Institute for International and Comparative Law (BIICL) at the behest of the Council of the European Union, is in planning phase. This prospective project would focus on judicial cooperation and implementation of the EU acquis in both civil and criminal matters in Business and Human Rights Law.