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Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence: Perspectives from the Global South

DAY 2 | 21 March
11:00-12:15 GMT+5:45

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In recent years, attention for business-related human rights abuses, especially in global supply chains, has led to numerous legislative initiatives and laws on mandatory human rights due diligence (mHRDD) in Europe. Discourse in this respect often revolves around how mHRDD legislation developed in, and by Europe will impact the global south, and understandably so. Whether global south perspectives are adequately included in, and served by current and upcoming mHRDD laws has garnered less attention.


Different lenses can be used to assess the impacts of mHRDD legislation on the global south. One way is to assess the impacts that mHRDD obligations might have on South Asian businesses and rights holders, including workers. Will the legislative push create an environment of shared responsibility between global north and global south companies, or will the burden and costs for greater respect for human rights be pushed down supply chains? What impact will these top-down corporate governance laws have on the lives of workers? Will they be enabled to participate and raise their voices in HRDD processes, or will they be passive bystanders which are to be consulted at the discretion of companies subject to HRDD obligations abroad? And how can South Asian governments, companies and rights holders respond to these challenges?


Moreover, arguing from the perspective of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), one could question, for example, whether mHRDD laws developed by the global north for the benefit of the global south could risk entrenching asymmetrical and hierarchical power relations. Whether mHRDD mechanisms are written in a way that the global north takes responsibility of creating equity and diversity in global south entities without providing similar accountability mechanisms vis-à-vis their own entities. Whether mHRDD lives on the power being rested with “leading brands” to pit one global south supplier against another. Or whether the way how first moving countries interpret the core concepts of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), embed those concepts in law and interpret them through courts, could affect the perceived meaning of HRDD over time. Various stakeholders have also questioned why certain countries seem to be supportive of mHRDD legislation or import bans, while being hesitant in engaging with the ongoing negotiations on a business and human rights treaty (the legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises). Finally, some argue that HRDD mechanisms cry for more disclosures from or about global south companies than those in the global north part of the value chain, and that even when they seek disclosures from the global north, they are about violations in the global south. That there is no focus in HRDD on how profits get redistributed, and that mHRDD mechanisms are written in a way that the global north takes responsibility.


Session Description 


The session will highlight the power imbalance between the Global North and Global South and how it impacts the development and institutionalisation and of policy instruments. While amplifying the perspectives from the global south, panelists and participants will explore the effect of mHRDD legislation on South Asia and to what extent ongoing legislative trends in the global north integrate global south perspectives, and discuss how stakeholders from the Global South can engage with, influence, and prepare for mHRDD developments in the Global North.


Session Objectives 

  • Explore to what extent adopted and upcoming mHRDD legislation are aligned with the UNGPs

  • Discuss the effects of legislative developments in the Global North on businesses and rights holders in the South Asia

  • Debate to what extent adopted and upcoming mHRDD legislation are influenced by power dynamics between the global north and the Global South

  • Explore actions that South Asian stakeholders, including governments, trade unions, civil society and National human Rights Institutions can take to ensure that human rights responsibilities are shared fairly across the value chain and between Global North and South businesses

  • Outline how stakeholders from South Asia can potentially influence mHRDD and other legislative initiatives in the Global North



  • Are adopted and upcoming mHRDD laws aligned with the UNGPs?
  • What practical implications will mHRDD legislation have on businesses and rights holders in South Asia?

  • How is mHRDD legislation influencing power dynamics between the global north and global south?

  • What can South Asian stakeholders do to ensure human rights responsibilities are shared fairly between global north and south businesses?

  • How can South Asian stakeholders engage with and influence legislative initiatives in the global north, including on mHRDD?


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