Saturday, April 27, 2013
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has announced two finalists for the next Director General of the organization - Mr. Herminio Blanco of Mexico and Mr. Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo of Brazil. Consultations with the WTO Member States regarding their preferences as between these two candidates will take place the first week of May with the final decision expected on May 8.
More information regarding the selection process may be found here.
Friday, April 26, 2013
As previously reported here, in 2010, the United States filed its first ever dispute settlement proceeding under the U.S.-Central American- Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) against Guatemala. The dispute involved concerns the United States had regarding Guatemala's commitment to enforcement of its labor laws, especially Guatemala's failure to provide adequate protection from violence for labor leaders.
Article 16.2 of CAFTA-DR requires each party to effectively enforce its labor laws. The United States alleged that Guatemala violated Article 16 by failing to effectively enforce Guatemalan labor laws relating to the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and acceptable conditions of work. The United States claimed that the failure to properly enforce labor laws in Guatemala creates an unfair playing field that harms U.S. workers.
As required under CAFTA-DR rules, the parties began a consultation process. When the matter was not resolved within a reasonable time, the United States requested the establishment of a Chapter 20 dispute settlement panel to consider the matter in 2011. Panelists were appointed in the summer of 2012.
Last week, the United States and Guatemala announced a settlement of the matter by way of an 18-point agreement that includes specific actions and time frames for Guatemala to improve its labor law enforcement. Under the agreement, Guatemala is expected to strengthen labor inspections, expedite and streamline the process of sanctioning employers for violations, take steps to increase labor law compliance by exporting companies, improve the monitoring and enforcement of labor court orders, bring more transparency by publishing labor law enforcement information and establish mechanisms to ensure workers receive proper severance pay.
April 27 is a public holiday in South Africa known as Freedom Day. It commemorates the country's first democratic elections in 1994 following the end of apartheid. These were the first national elections where the exercise of the right of franchise did not depend on race.
Divestment and other economic sanctions are widely believed to have contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa. The United Nations General Assembly called for economic sanctions in Resolution 1761 as early as 1962, but some Western powers, most notably the United Kingdom with support from the United States, lacked the political will to take action at that time. Transnational civil society increased pressure for action, ultimately leading the United States and other governments to impose trade and financial sanctions and divestment measures in the 1980s. These sanctions created economic difficulties for the South African government and have been credited with helping to bring about the democratic transition in South Africa.
The Plurinational State of Bolivia has brought proceedings against the Republic of Chile before the International Court of Justice regarding "Chile's obligation to negotiate in good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean." Read more about the new case by clicking here.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
As if you really needed another reason to to go Amsterdam at the end of May . . . . The Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES) will host a seminar on Distribution of Responsibilities in International Law in Amsterdam on May 30-31, 2013. This Seminar will consider extra-legal perspectives on how responsibility is distributed when multiple wrongdoing actors contribute to a harmful outcome.
Although various grounds have been advanced to distribute responsibilities in other disciplines, such grounds have only to a limited extent been linked to the international legal discourse. In view of the increasing relevance of questions of distribution of responsibilities and of the paucity of international law on this point, there is much reason for a fundamental inquiry into the bases and justifications for apportionment of responsibilities. Such an inquiry could support an articulation of critique of present international law, and provide a basis for reform. At the seminar, 13 contributions by leading experts from various disciplines will be discussed.
Only limited seats are available. For more information on how to participate, send an email to: email@example.com.
Hat tip to Jessica Schechinger, University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law | Amsterdam Center for International Law Research Project on Shared Responsibility in International Law (SHARES)
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that it has consolidated two pending cases:
- Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua), and
- Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica).
The ICJ has joined proceedings in two earlier instances:
- Cases concerning South West Africa (consolidated Ethiopia v. South Africa and Liberia v. South Africa), and
- The North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (consolidated Federal Republic of Germany v. Denmark and Federal Republic of Germany v. The Netherlands).
Those earlier cases were consolidated even though the ICJ rules did not then expressly provide for consolidation. However both of those consolidated cases were heard in a single hearing and decided in a single opinion. Article 47 of the ICJ rules now provide that the ICJ "may at any time direct that the proceedings in two or more cases be joined" and that the Court has "a broad margin of discretion." Exercising that discretion here, the ICJ has joined these two cases involving Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Monday, April 22, 2013
April 22, 2013 is the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. This year's theme is "The Face of Climate Change." You are encouraged to share stories regarding the impact of climate change on people, animals and places and what is being done about it.
For more information, visit the Earth Day Network. There, you can register your "act of green", such as planting a tree to help grow Earth's canopy.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Each year, the U.S. State Department compiles a report on human rights practices of countries around the world. On Friday, April 19, the State Department announced the release of the 2012 Country Reports. The following is taken from a US State Department press release summarizing the most noteworthy human rights developments in 2012:
"1. Shrinking Space for Civil Society Activism Around the World: In 2012, certain governments continued to repress or attack the means by which citizens could organize, assemble, or demand better performance from their leaders. Across the globe, crackdowns on civil society included new laws impeding or preventing freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion; heightened restrictions on the ability of organizations to receive funding; and the killing, harassment, and arrest of political, human rights, and labor activists.
2. The Ongoing Struggle in the Middle East for Democratic Change: The hope of the early days of the Arab Awakening ran up against the harsh realities and challenges facing transitions from authoritarian regimes that had systematically repressed the development of civil society and democratic institutions: Bashar Assad’s brutality against his own people in Syria; inter-communal tensions and political violence in Yemen, Bahrain, and Iraq; and serious hurdles to sustainable democracy in Egypt and Libya.
3. Emerging Democracy and Space for Civil Society in Burma: Burma continued its historic transition towards democracy, beginning with the release of more than 300 political prisoners in January 2012. In addition, the Burmese government has opened new space for civil society by relaxing press censorship, permitting more types of uncensored content online, and permitting a number of assemblies and processions throughout the country.
4. Threats to Freedom of Expression in the Changing Media Landscape: Freedom of expression – a crucial element of democracy – faced serious threats around the world. There were also positive strides, however, with social media amplifying voices and allowing ordinary citizens to expose human rights violations or organize collective action even when traditional media was fully controlled by authoritarian regimes, such as Cuba.
5. The Continued Marginalization of Vulnerable Groups: In too many places, governments continued to persecute, or allow the persecution of, religious and ethnic minorities; women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender LGBT) people; persons with disabilities; migrants; and other vulnerable populations. Additionally, lawful migrant workers across the globe faced mployment and societal discrimination, lack of sufficient legal protections, harassment in the workplace, and, in some cases, severe vulnerabilities to labor exploitation, including forced labor."
The full report may be found here.