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Programme of the cluster on The Implementation of SDGs and Business & Human Rights

2016 has been a busy year for Business and Human Rights agenda.

The guiding principles on Business and Human rights led by professor John Ruggie and endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 , the adoption of the EU directive on mandatory disclosing of non-financial information (including human rights) have already prompted companies to address the issue proactively. 83% of corporate executives recently interviewed by The Economist Intelligence Unit responded that human rights are matter for business and not any longer only for governments.  Companies of the like of Unilever and Ericsson have published their standalone reports on human rights, using the UN Guiding Principles reporting Framework and hinting that they may be ready to switch from a “no harm” to a “promote” approach.

In Europe, the Modern Slavery Act has come into force in the UK, obliging companies turning over more than £36m pounds per year to produce an annual statement on their strategies to combat modern slavery practices in their supply chains. At EU level, the trade policy has introduced sustainability and human rights - and “trade for all” - raising questions on consequences and opportunities for corporates’ investments around the world.

The Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted in New York in 2015 have been anchored on the respect of human rights. In fact human rights are embedded in various goals such as the “promotion of sustained inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” as well as ending poverty and hunger, addressing inequality, ensuring healthy lives, inclusive education, access to water, sanitation, energy and more.

If the role of the private sector is emerging as a key driver of the implementation of SDGs and the human rights principles are at the core of this process, business and human rights should become even more compelling for all companies as we move forward into the implementation phase of the SDGs.

The convergence of the soft law and pragmatic approach will put further pressure on companies to go beyond the “no harm” principle and will require implementation of more specific actions (e.g. specific policies and compliance/grievances mechanisms, as foreseen in UN Guiding principles on Business and Human Rights) as well as perhaps more “positive duties”, especially where companies are sole providers and where the context requires provision of health, education etc.

Moreover, defining the precise scope and granular application of the “economic human rights” to business will require a new mind-set, including in academia and legal departments, as well as new training programs and capacity building.

That the train has already left the station for many companies is clear also from emerging lawsuits for instance against Mars, P&G and Nestle’ over alleged slavery in the pet food supply chain show and business and human rights will have implications not only on the traditional monolithic corporations and vertical supply chains but also on the digital market.

While companies are moving ahead, what have governments been doing?  It is indeed ultimately the duty of the state to protect individuals from corporate violations at international law, improve the legal framework, create monitoring mechanisms and drive the improvement of domestic regulation of human rights as well as ensuring policy coherence.

Some Member States have already published such plans and some of them have followed open and structured consultation processes by involving directly representatives of the business community and civil society (Netherlands, Italy) and publishing the report through open communications plans with media and web engagements (UK, Sweden).

Business and Human Rights is a complex issue that requires multi-disciplinary and inclusive solution. For some others it is going to be a “Pandora box” (with hope at the bottom, as the myth goes). Certainly what is happening now in terms of speed and flows of developments would have been simply unthinkable only ten years ago.

The aim of the thematic cluster on Business and Human Rights is to have a one week deep dive into the issue on from a multidisciplinary perspective, reviewing the latest trends and most recent developments on the field, including interactive discussions on examining specific cases, insights and examples on how business is addressing the issue.

The faculty of the program will be composed of practitioners and experts from private sector, academia and representatives from International Institutions (such as OECD) as well as from EU.


Cluster Responsible

Giulia di TommasoGiulia di Tommaso
CSR - Expert

Giulia Di Tommaso in an international lawyer with over twenty years of global experience in Legal and Public Affairs on a wide range of business issues, based mainly in Brussels, London, Africa and Italy.

She has been for over a decade with Unilever in a variety of roles - as Director, Legal Policy and International Relations, Director of External Affairs for Africa and then as Board Member, General Counsel and Code Officer in Italy - leading legal and corporate affairs/communications teams on Compliance and Human rights issues, Anti-trust & Competition Law, IPR, Trade, Regulatory, as well as driving Sustainability/CSR strategy. 

She represented the business at the World Economic Forum in Davos and Africa, the Investment Climate facility for Africa, the Southern Corridor of Tanzania, the Transatlantic Business Dialogue as well as the EU-Africa Summits. 

She has led the negotiations culminating in the international agreement on sustainable sourcing from smallholders farmers between Unilever and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). 

Both in her capacity and leadership roles, Giulia has had extensive experience in engaging with governments, media and companies across all sectors. 

Prior to the corporate experience, Giulia was senior associate and managed the Brussels office of Chiomenti Studio Legale and worked at the European Commission as well as at the European Parliament in Brussels. 

Giulia is a qualified attorney at law and was called to the bar in 1992. She holds a Master of Laws in European Law from the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven and is fellow of Salzburg Seminar and visiting fellow at Berkeley University- Faculty of Law/Boalt Hall. 

Regular speaker at international conferences, she is a fellow of the Institute of Sustainability Leadership, Prince of Wales Program. She is currently cooperating with the Centre of Human Rights/EIUC in Venice on Business and Human Rights academic program. 



Heidi Hautala - MEP Heidi Hautala - MEP

Heidi Hautala has been elected to the European Parliament for a third time in the 2014-2019 term. She was formerly an MEP from 1995-2003 and 2009-2011. She is the only Finn to have chaired a European Parliament political group or committee. As chair of the Parliament’s subcommittee on human tights she had the opportunity to influence the human rights situation. In Finland she was the minister for international development from June 2011 to October 2013. She was responsible for development cooperation in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and for state ownership steering in the Prime Minister’s Office. She sat as a member of the Finnish Parliament from 1991-1995 and 2003-2009, and chaired its legal affairs committee from 2007-2009. She served as a member of the Helsinki City Council 1985-1994 and 2008-2014. Her particular specialist areas are human rights, transparency, global justice and environmentally responsible legislation.


Axel MarxAxel Marx

Axel Marx is deputy-director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, University of Leuven. He studied in Leuven, Hull and Cambridge and holds a PhD from the University of Leuven. As deputy-director of the Centre he manages the day-to-day activities of the Centre and several large-scale research projects.

His research mainly focuses on global governance, certification, sustainability standards, non-state market regulation, human rights, trade governance, good governance, international cooperation, international development, research methodology, comparative case methods and qualitative comparative analysis. His international academic publications have appeared inter alia in European Political Science Review, Regulation and Governance, Political Research Quarterly, Journal of World Trade, Research in Sociology of Organizations, Journal of Socio-Economics, International Journal of Human Rights, Journal of Human Rights Practice, International Labor Review, World Bank Legal Review, Asia-Europe Journal, Journal of Business Research, Globalizations and Sociological Methodology.

He recently co-edited books on Global Governance and Private Standards (Edward Elgar with Miet Maertens, Jo Swinnen and Jan Wouters, 2012), Global Governance of Labor Rights. Edward Elgar with J. Wouters, G. Rayp & L. Beke, 2015); Global Governance Through Trade (Edward Elgar with J. Wouters, B. Natens & D. Geraets, 2015)

As an expert to policy-makers he has contributed to over 15 reports for inter alia United Nations Industrial Development Organization, International Labor Organization, European Commission, European Parliament, Committee of the Regions, Belgian Federal Government and Belgian Flemish Government.


Roel NieuwenkampRoel Nieuwenkamp - Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct

Prof. Dr. R. (Roel) Nieuwenkamp Economics, Law and Philosophy at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. He worked at the European Commission and was a consultant in New Zealand. He worked for several years as management consultant at Arthur Andersen.

In 1998 he became interim manager at the Ministry of Education. From 2001 until August 2006 he was managing director of the Entrepreneurship Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. 

From September 2006 until May 2013, he was managing director of the International Trade Policy & Economic Governance Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands. His responsibilities concerned trade policy (WTO), investment policy, corporate responsibility, and the regulation of trade in weapons and strategic goods.

In addition to his job he wrote his PhD dissertation about the interaction between ministers and top civil servants. From 2010 to 2014 he was part-time Professor of Public Administration at the University of Amsterdam. He still teaches at several universities.

Roel was Chair of the OECD Working Party on International Investment and in that capacity chaired the sensitive negotiations on the 2011 multilateral agreement on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct. He chaired the Voluntary Principles for Security & Human Rights in the Extractives Industries in 2009 and 2013.

Since June 2013 Roel is Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct, the intergovernmental committee for corporate responsibility, based on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. He chairs the unique global complaints mechanism of the OECD Guidelines, the National Contact Point system. Besides, as Chair he leads the body of governments overseeing the corporate responsibility work of the OECD, including sectoral programmes for the financial, mining, garment, and agricultural sectors.


Thomas RolfThomas Rolf

Thomas Rolf is a Senior Manager at Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). For GIZ he also worked as Programme Manager in Private Sector Development for eight years in Egypt & Ethiopia and was previously involved in different positions in strategy consulting in Manila, Rio de Janeiro, Frankfurt & Düsseldorf. He graduated at the University of Frankfurt (Dipl. Kaufmann) and holds an additional MBA.


Eugenio SartorettoEugenio Sartoretto

Eugenio Sartoretto has more than 6 years of experience in programmatic and strategic development, and implementation of activities in the field of Democratic Governance, Human Rights, Rule of Law, Gender, Indigenous People, Community Based Development, Management of Natural resources in West and Central Africa, including conflict and post conflict contexts. Over 7 years of legal and political research, analysis and reporting, in particular in the field of human rights, humanitarian law, international criminal law and environmental law. Since September 2015 he has been working as International Legal Consultant in the Development Law Branch, Legal Office of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy. Earlier, from September 2012 to August 2015, he was Law and Policy Advisor for the Climate and Forest Programme, Africa Unit ClientEarth in London, United Kingdom.


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