2023 Clinic Cycle: Legal Interventions and Policy Work in Business and Human Rights

In the 2023 Clinic course, clinic participants worked with partners and experts on cases ranging from strategic litigation related to a dam disaster in Brazil and legal interventions based on the German Supply Chain Act (Lieferkettengesetz) to policy work promoting stakeholder engagement in EU legislation on corporate human rights due diligence.

On 12 June 2023, the Clinic hosted a public launch event for the policy briefing paper "Strengthening Stakeholder Engagement in the EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence", based on research by public policy professionals at the Willy Brandt School and developed in cooperation with the German Institute for Human Rights and the University of Luxemburg. Contributing authors and expert commentators discussed the policy briefing paper and the way forward in political negotiations at EU level.

Please find more information here.

Summary of SS 2023 cases:

1 - Communication Plan: One student team designed a strategic communication plan accompanying a strategic litigation case against a German company. The civil lawsuit filed in Germany includes allegations of negligence in mining operations and certification, leading to a fatal accident and thousands of victims in Brazil.

2.- Climate Accounting: Students researched the carbon footprint of German "carbon majors" and other companies with high emissions in preparation for legal analysis, and possibly litigation, concerning their responsibility for extreme weather events and ensuing loss and damage in Pakistan.

3 - Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion: Another student team contributed to a civil society submission to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights(Amicus curiae) in an Advisory Opinion proceeding on the climate emergency and human rights inittiated by Colombia and Chile. The submission focused on Business and Human Rights-related obligations and was prepared in collaboration with the European Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights in the context of a broader Amicus submitted by the Network for Economic, Social and Cultural rights.

4 - Strategic Litigation with the German Supply Chain Due Act (LkSG): Two other student teams invesitigated possible violations of the new German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (Lieferkettengesetz) concerning withholding of wages in Qatar and forced labour in Brazil. The legal memos also explored how these cases can influence the development of standards under the LkSG.

5 - Policy Work on Responsible Contracting: To what extend do large lead companies unilaterally impose human rights obligations on their suppliers without empowering them and addressing their own causation contributions? Students researched and wrote a report on how large companies, especially those falling under the scope of the LkSG, address this issue and drew attention to the topic by highlighting best practice / low performance.

The Policy Paper can be accessed here.

The 2022 Course: Clinical Seminar on Business and Human Rights in Transnational Value Chains

Corporate human rights responsibilities are becoming increasingly important in German and international law. The Global Justice Clinic analyzes the legal techniques that state and non-state actors employ to address human rights challenges in a globalised economy. Special attention is paid to the human rights-based governance of transnational value chains, as exemplified in the German Supply Chain Act of 2021 and similar regulations in comparative and European law. Students worked on real case studies from business and human rights practice, and guests from the human rights and business fields provide insight into the practical work.

In the 2022 course, student teams worked on the following practical projects:

  • OECD complaints procedure: The first team researched and drafted a legal memorandum for a human rights NGO which analysed and compared the practices of OECD national contact points in preparation for lodging a complaint against a German company active abroad.
  • German Value Chain Due Diligence Act: The second team researched and drafted a legal memorandum for a human rights NGO analysing the application of the newly enacted German Value Chain Due Diligence Act to a German retailer.
  • Corporate human rights due diligence at EU level: The third team drafted a policy paper arguing for strenghtening provisions on stakeholder representation provisions in the proposal for EU Sustainability Due Diligence Draft Directive, currently under discussion by European institutions. The paper has been discussed with experts and will be published and disseminated in cooperation with the Willy Brandt School and the German Institute for Human Rights.

A one-page summary with recommendations on how to strengthen stakeholder engagement in the EU Directive has been circulated among policy makers in November 2022. It can be accessed here.