Monday, March 27, 2017

March 2017 Newsletter From John Knox, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment--2017 Annual Report to Human Rights Council: Biodiversity and Human Rights

John H. Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment (former Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment) and Henry C. Lauerman Professor of International Law has been advancing his mandate. (See HEREHERE, HERE, and HERE, HERE, HEREHERE. and HERE) .





Professor Knox has just released his March 2017 progress report on the work of his office, which includes links to a number of important statements and activities, principal among which is his Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (A/HRC/34/49; Feb-March 2017). One can sum up the work presented in a particularly direct statement:
The full enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food and water, depends on the services provided by ecosystems. The provision of ecosystem services depends on the health and sustainability of ecosystems, which in turn depend on biodiversity. The full enjoyment of human rights thus depends on biodiversity, and the degradation and loss of biodiversity undermine the ability of human beings to enjoy their human rights. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (A/HRC/34/49; Feb-March 2017) ¶ 5.
The approach underlines a critical hole in the discussions that tend to silo business, human rights advocates, states and environmental advocates and businesses in increasingly remote silos.  Those silos are erected and maintained in part, no doubt, by inertia.  Yet they are also strategically important--important for actors seeking to maximize their influence and positions within the myriad power circles that pass for the international communities (and their enemies), important for the systemic integrity of a segmented approach to lawmaking at both the international and domestic levels, and important, as well, for the governance gaps that these silos produce in systems that reward arbitrage among these systemic interruptions.  Biodiversity is not merely a component of human rights--it is an essential element of the way in which the human rights duties of states and the responsibilities of business (including SOEs, SWFs, and financial actors) to respect human rights. This poses a great problem of interpretation of the core business and human rights documents--from the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, to the OECD's Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  As well, it suggests some rethinking for semi private efforts like the ISO 26000 project. And most important, it suggests that the remedial projects of both UNGP and OECD Guidelines may require some substantial development if they are t embrace more fully their potential.


The post includes the Transmittal letter of the Special Rapporteaur (with links), the 8 March 2017 Statement to the Human Rights Council (Biodiversity and Human Rights) and Parts I and II of the Annual Report.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"The Future of Sovereign Wealth Funds": Notes From the Symposium Sponsored by the Wake Forest Law Review



It is my great pleasure to announce an upcoming conference: The Future of Sovereign Wealth Funds, sponsored by the Wake Forest Law Review 2017 as their Spring Symposium. For conference information please see HERE.

This post includes the Conference Program and summary observations on each of the presentations, all of which follow, below.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Posting Preliminary Conference Draft,"Sovereign Wealth Funds, Capacity Building, Development, and Governance" for the Conference "The Future of Sovereign Wealth Funds" March 24, 2017 Wake Forest Law School



It is my great pleasure to announce an upcoming conference: The Future of Sovereign Wealth Funds, sponsored by the Wake Forest Law Review 2017 as their Spring Symposium. For conference information please see HERE.

This post includes the very preliminary draft of my conference Paper, Sovereign Wealth Funds, Capacity Building, Development, and Governance, which I will be presenting on March 24. I post it in the hopes of generating comments and discussion among those interested in the subject.

The paper considers the way that SWFs may be transformed by and are transforming the framework of global finance and production relationships. SWFs have already started moving well beyond their idealized form, established within the parameters of the Santiago Principles. SWFs now advance the political and economic projects of states, they serve to strengthen governance, they are the focal point for the normalization of global human rights in economic activities projects, and they also serve to advance the development goals of states. The old issues of the commercial character of these mechanisms, and of their effects of the financial markets and ownership structures of rich home states remains important, but may no longer be the central element pushing the development of SWFs. Law and regulatory structures lag far behind the realities that are taking shape on the ground. The public-private divide, the constraining structures of national principles of taxation and sovereign immunity are now ripe for contestation and change. But on what basis?

The paper and abstract follow.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cuba Beyond the Cusp of Change (Day 7): Reflections on a Week Long Penn State Graduate Course in Cuba

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

It is my great privilege to have been encouraged to design and hold a week long embedded course program through Pennsylvania State University. My thanks to the office of the Penn State Office of the Vice Provost for Global Prgrams, Michael Adewumi and Kate Manni, Assistant Director for Embedded Programs, for making this possible.  Thanks as well to  Scott Gartner, the Director, Penn State School of International Affairs, and special thanks to Claudia Prieto (SIA Academic Adviser and Student Services Coordinator) and Rachel Arnold (Assistant to the Financial Officer, Penn State Law/SIA), without whose help and encouragement this program would not have happened. Great thanks as well to our hosts in Cuba, the Centro de Estudios Martianos that went out of its way to enrich the course and the experiences of our students.

This is the first of a series of posts that will develop reflections both on the teaching of embedded programs in Cuba, generally, but more specifically as a way of documenting the way my students and see see Cuba today.  For many years Cuba and its political order was said to be on the "cusp of change" (e.g., here).  Since the start of normalization of relations with the United States, it is quite evident that Cuba has now moved beyond the "cusp" and into the realities of integration within a global system to which it has had both privileged access and been excluded over the last half century.  The re-adjustments in both respects will mark the trajectory of Cuban life for the next generation (compare here, with here).

I started with the embedded course syllabus (INTAF 597C Penn State SIA) and then will post reflections for each day of the journey through the course materials and within Cuba.  The hope is that this provides some food for thought respecting the necessary evolution of political and economic systems, and the constraints within which systems change or expend great energy to stay the same.

Links for full contents HERE.

This post considers our activities on Day 7--Varadero and the Tourist Sector.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Coal Free Investment Universe: Third tranche of Coal exclusions from the Government Pension Fund Global

(Pix Coastal exposure of the Point Aconi Seam (Nova Scotia))


The Norwegian State continues to project its national environmental policies onto its investment strategies.
With effect from February 2016, the Ministry of Finance added a new product-based criterion, under which mining or power companies with 30 per cent or more of their operations associated with thermal coal may be excluded from the GPFG. With respect to this criterion, Norges Bank may exclude companies without the recommendation of the Council on Ethics. So far, Norges Bank has excluded 59 companies with reference to the coal criterion, while a further 11 have been placed under observation. (Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, Annual Report 2016;  pp. 7)
On 7 March 2017 Norges Bank announced its decision to exclude an additional 10 companies from the Government Pension Fund Global based on the product-based coal criterion in the guidelines for observation and exclusion.

The most immediate and perhaps interesting observations that might be extracted here touch on the growing shift in effective authority over control of investment universe matters form the Ethics Council to the Norges Bank. This shift augments  the change in procedure, effective January 2015, that shifted the Ethics Council's communication from the Foreign Ministry to the Norges Bank.   The second is the willingness to make the process more efficient (and to capture a larger set of potentially offending enterprises) by substituting bright line rules (e.g. the 30% of revenues derived from coal threshold for exclusion/observation) for principles based decision making inherent in the Ethical Guidelines. The third is this mve to bright line rules suggests a pathway through which public policy may continue to be exercised through the commercial activities of public pension fund ("The Norwegian parliament voted in May last year to order the GPFG to sell off its holdings in companies that have 30% or more of their activities in the coal business.").  The fourth is that even bright line rules are substantially interlaced with discretion--now exercised by Norges Bank. Beyond the decision to exclude or place a company under observation, the interpretation of the rules, the collection and interpretation of data, and the discretion built into communication with enterprises, provide a substantially large space within which Norges Bank might negotiate with targeted enterprises. Lastly, the framework of the Norges Bank may have spillover effect:
"Separately, the 235 billion Danish kroner ($36 billion) PKA, Hellerup, Denmark, said on its website that it had updated its criteria on coal companies to enter into dialogue with those for which 25% to 50% of their business comes from the commodity. It will also exclude companies where oil sands account for more than 50% of their business.One year ago, PKA blacklisted 31 coal companies and entered into dialogue with 23 companies for which 50% to 90% of business comes from coal." (here)
 The Press Release and Grounds for decision–Product based coal exclusions (7 March 2017) follow.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cuba Beyond the Cusp of Change (Day 6): Reflections on a Week Long Penn State Graduate Course in Cuba

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

It is my great privilege to have been encouraged to design and hold a week long embedded course program through Pennsylvania State University. My thanks to the office of the Penn State Office of the Vice Provost for Global Prgrams, Michael Adewumi and Kate Manni, Assistant Director for Embedded Programs, for making this possible.  Thanks as well to  Scott Gartner, the Director, Penn State School of International Affairs, and special thanks to Claudia Prieto (SIA Academic Adviser and Student Services Coordinator) and Rachel Arnold (Assistant to the Financial Officer, Penn State Law/SIA), without whose help and encouragement this program would not have happened. Great thanks as well to our hosts in Cuba, the Centro de Estudios Martianos that went out of its way to enrich the course and the experiences of our students.

This is the first of a series of posts that will develop reflections both on the teaching of embedded programs in Cuba, generally, but more specifically as a way of documenting the way my students and see see Cuba today.  For many years Cuba and its political order was said to be on the "cusp of change" (e.g., here).  Since the start of normalization of relations with the United States, it is quite evident that Cuba has now moved beyond the "cusp" and into the realities of integration within a global system to which it has had both privileged access and been excluded over the last half century.  The re-adjustments in both respects will mark the trajectory of Cuban life for the next generation (compare here, with here).

I started with the embedded course syllabus (INTAF 597C Penn State SIA) and then will post reflections for each day of the journey through the course materials and within Cuba.  The hope is that this provides some food for thought respecting the necessary evolution of political and economic systems, and the constraints within which systems change or expend great energy to stay the same.

Links for full contents HERE.

This post considers our activities on Day 6--Visit to the Organopónico de Alamar.


Announcing Upcoming Conference: "The Future of Sovereign Wealth Funds" March 2017



It is my great pleasure to announce an upcoming conference: The Future of Sovereign Wealth Funds, sponsored by the Wake Forest Law Review 2017 as their Spring Symposium.

Friday, March 24, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The conference was organized by Alan Palmiter who has managed to work his magic, bringing together  a great group  that will no doubt provoke discussion that pushes the envelop in this area that for lawyers is still a bit exotic. 


The conference description, Agenda , and paper abstracts follow:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Joel Slawotsky--Essay "On the potential shift from the present-day architects to new architects on the definition of international law"



Joel Slawotsky, of the Radzyner School of Law, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel, and the Law and Business Schools of the College of Management, Rishon LeZion, Israel has guest blogged for "Law at the End of the Day"  on issues relating to corporate liability under international law  (e.g., "Rethinking Financial Crimes and Violations of International Law", Jan. 9, 2013; "Corporate Liability Under The Alien Tort Statute: The Latest Twist"April 26, 2014) and on issues of multilateral trade and finance (Joel Slawotsky Reports From Chinese University of Hong Kong: Asia FDI Forum II--China's Three-Prong Investment Strategy: Bilateral, Regional, and Global Tracks) He has also recently also served as Guest Editor of the Sovereign Wealth Fund special issue of Qatar University International Review of Law (IRL) (2015).

He has very kindly produced a marvelously insightful essay: On the potential shift from the present-day architects to new architects on the definition of international law. In the essay he considers the ramifications of the U.S. shift away from a stable 70 year effort to create and maintain a system of international governance architecture and what it might mean for the future of law, the structures of globalization, and international relations.

The essay follows

Cuba Beyond the Cusp of Change (Day 5): Reflections on a Week Long Penn State Graduate Course in Cuba


(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

It is my great privilege to have been encouraged to design and hold a week long embedded course program through Pennsylvania State University. My thanks to the office of the Penn State Office of the Vice Provost for Global Prgrams, Michael Adewumi and Kate Manni, Assistant Director for Embedded Programs, for making this possible.  Thanks as well to  Scott Gartner, the Director, Penn State School of International Affairs, and special thanks to Claudia Prieto (SIA Academic Adviser and Student Services Coordinator) and Rachel Arnold (Assistant to the Financial Officer, Penn State Law/SIA), without whose help and encouragement this program would not have happened. Great thanks as well to our hosts in Cuba, the Centro de Estudios Martianos that went out of its way to enrich the course and the experiences of our students.

This is the first of a series of posts that will develop reflections both on the teaching of embedded programs in Cuba, generally, but more specifically as a way of documenting the way my students and see see Cuba today.  For many years Cuba and its political order was said to be on the "cusp of change" (e.g., here).  Since the start of normalization of relations with the United States, it is quite evident that Cuba has now moved beyond the "cusp" and into the realities of integration within a global system to which it has had both privileged access and been excluded over the last half century.  The re-adjustments in both respects will mark the trajectory of Cuban life for the next generation (compare here, with here).

I started with the embedded course syllabus (INTAF 597C Penn State SIA) and then will post reflections for each day of the journey through the course materials and within Cuba.  The hope is that this provides some food for thought respecting the necessary evolution of political and economic systems, and the constraints within which systems change or expend great energy to stay the same.

Links for full contents HERE.

This post considers our activities on Day 5--The Future Direction of Cuba: From the Guidelines of the 6th PCC Congress (2011) to the Conceptualzación of the Cuban Socialist Model of the 7th PCC Congress (2016).


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Announcing Conference "Accountability and International Business Operations: Providing Justice for Corporate Violations of Human Rights, Labor and Environmental Standards"



It is with great pleasure that I am happy to announce the details of what is shaping up to be a marvelous program organized by the Utrecht Center for Accountability and and Liability Law (UCALL).  The conference,  "Accountability and International Business Operations: Providing Justice for Corporate Violations of Human Rights, Labor and Environmental Standards" brings together some of the most innovative thought leaders in the field today.  The object of the conference organizers is to inquire how regulatory tools stemming from international law, public law, and private law may or may not be used for transnational corporate accountability purposes. 

Great thanks to the conferences organizers, a team of researchers from the Utrecht Centre for Accountability and Liability Law: Prof. Ivo Giesen (private law); Dr. Liesbeth Enneking (private law); Prof. François Kristen (criminal law); Anne-Jetske Schaap, LLM (criminal law); Prof. Cedric Ryngaert (international law); and Lucas Roorda, LLM (international law).

The Conference Statement and Program follows below: