On borrowed time: Five years after the Rana Plaza disaster, the Bangladesh Accord faces court-ordered closure

 

Five years ago, sometime before 9am on 24 April 2013, cracks started to appear in the Rana Plaza building in the Dhaka District of Bangladesh, revealing a structural failure that caused the eight-story commercial building to collapse. The building contained five garment factories supplying major global brands and retailers.

It only took 90 seconds for Rana Plaza to collapse, but it took two weeks to search for the dead. When the search ended on 13 May 2013, the total of lives lost was over 1,100.

The tragedy spurred textile and clothing companies into action. In May 2013, global fashion brands and retailers and trade unions signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the “Bangladesh Accord“), a ground-breaking worker safety agreement. Adidas, H&M and Esprit are amongst the signatories.

The most famous pillar of the Bangladesh Accord is its five-year legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to ensure a safe working environment in the Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry. This feature gained notoriety when a case was filed at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in October 2016 by two global unions, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, to hold two unnamed multinational companies to account. The case eventually settled for $2.3 million in January 2018.

There are, however, additional components to the Accord, including, importantly, the creation of an independent inspection programme.

The Accord, which gathered the support of more than 250 brands and retailers from over 20 countries, was originally established for a limited time of five years – until May 2018.

In May 2017, the Remediation Coordination Cell (“RCC“) was established under the government of Bangladesh’s National Initiative, with a view to take over from the Accord to implement the remediation process for garment factories.

In June 2017, leading fashion brands and global trade unions announced at the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct that they would enter into a new agreement, which would come into effect in 2018. Later that year, a transition agreement (the “2018 Transition Accord“) was signed, extending the Accord’s mandate for another three years, and allowing it to continue its operations until the RCC was ready to take over the platform’s responsibilities.

Everything seemed on track to guarantee a smooth continuation of the Accord’s activities… until judicial proceedings were started by a Bangladeshi factory owner who had failed to remedy safety breaches, and was therefore removed from the list of factories that Accord signatories are allowed to source from.

The factory owner sued the Accord. In April 2018, in an extraordinary unilateral action, the Bangladesh High Court issued a “suo moto” restraining order against Accord office operations. The restraining order is due to come into force on 30 November. This means that, in two days, the Bangladesh Accord will have to close its Dhaka office, severely limiting its scope of work and its ability to inspect thousands of factories supplying clothes for brands such as H&M, Esprit and Primark.

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Go On! Tilburg University Business and Human Rights Summer School registration extended to May 1

163/365: Tilburg

Tilburg (Credit: Elger van der Wel/Flickr)

 

Registration for the Tilburg University Summer School in Business and Human Rights has been extended to May 1.

This summer course introduces participants to the linkages between business and human rights from a variety of (legal, regulatory, and policy) perspectives. The content and implementation of the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights take a center stage. Participants become familiar with the main actors in business and human rights, and their respective duties and responsibilities.

  • Course period: 14 July – 18 July
  • Study credits: 3 ECTS
  • Max participants: 40 participants
  • Course leaders: Nicola Jägers & Daniel Augenstein
  • Target group: Advanced graduate, post-graduate, and doctoral students from law, social & political sciences and cognate disciplines with a  working knowledge in human rights law. Representatives of the public service, business organizations and NGOs with an interest in business and human rights issues.

For more information, and to register, visit http://www.tilburguniversity.edu/education/summerschool/courses/business-and-human-rights/.

Promoting the Rule of Law from a Practice Perspective

5210278_bigThe American Bar Association Section of International Law just published a volume I edited entitled Promoting the Rule of Law: A Practicioner’s Guide to Key Issues and Developments. Chapter contributors include IntLawGrrls Fionnuala Ni Aolain and Patricia O’Brien, as well as Martin Schoenteich,  Hassane Cisse, David Stewart, Renaud Sorieul,  Colette Rausch and Thomas Nachbar, with a foreword by Justice Richard Goldstone.

Now more than ever, there is a consensus around the ideal of the rule of law and the centrality of its contribution to the development of democratic, prosperous, peaceful, inclusive and secure societies.  This book explores many facets of this mandate by looking at the different actors involved in rule of law work, the origins and evolution of this mandate, the role of rule of law in fostering economic development, fostering rule of law in conflict and post conflict settings and the different elements of designing and implementing rule of law missions around the globe. As it does so, this book also addresses the meaning or, rather, the various meanings of rule of law. All  contributing authors seek to get to the heart of how to make efforts to promote the rule of law more effective, more responsive, more inclusive, more coordinated, more humane and more enduring. In the Introductory Chapter, I outline Twelve Key Lessons that put the main conclusions of the book in context. While some of these conclusions are known to the rule of law community, they provide a framework for further discussion, inquiry and learning.

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