Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment in Student Housing Now a Growing Trend --Ought There to be a CSR/Human Rights Dimension as Well?

(Pix  Larry Catá Backer 2016)

One is used to speaking about sovereign wealth funds either as vehicles for the projection of state power into the capital markets of foreign states through acquisition of foreign securities. Alternatively, it has been fashionable, especially among SWFs in developing states, to recast SWFs as an alternative to development banks. 

But SWFs have, for a long time, also invested in real estate.  That makes sense, especially for those SWFs with a very long term time horizon.  Yet SWFs have now discovered a means of combining both a long time horizon for wealth maximization and the possibility of generating potentially substantial returns in the short and medium term--by entering into the market for the exploitation fo education services.  But rather than enter this market at its core--by investing in universities--the smart SWF is now investing in peripheral but essential services.  These include student dorms, food services, tutoring and the like.  These investments, when projected into foreign states has another benefit--they avoid any political or societal obligation that a state organ might otherwise bear to its own people.  Investing in peripheral services in foreign states permits the state to avoid any public service burden.  And, because they operate as a quasi private capacity, they might owe only a corporate responsibility to respect human rights, rather than a state duty to protect them. The obligations of states and enterprise sunder the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights might suggest otherwise.

This post considers the expanding interest of SWFs in student housing investment, especially outside the home state.  It focuses on the recent move by the Singaporean SWF GIC to stake out a very large position in this global market that promises both long term appreciation and short term revenue flows, and suggests the need to consider their human rights impacts as well.

Friday, October 21, 2016

From the Finnish China Law Center: "Why studying Chinese law? – Read answers from International Scholars"

The Finnish China Law Center has just published a nice set of short interviews touching on the topic--why study Chinese law?:   Three law professors from the United States, Denmark and Hong Kong, have kindly accepted the Center’s interview requests and shared their insights on researching and studying Chinese law. 

The interviews may be accessed HERE.  And they are reproduced below. My thanks to the Director of the Center is Professor Ulla Liukkunen. Thanks as well to Dr. Yihong Zhang who conducted the interviews.

And a very brief endorsement of the marvelous collection of essays edited by Professors Liukkunen and Yifeng Chen (Peking University Law Faculty)--Fundamental Labour Rights in China--Legal Implementation and Cultural Logic (Springer 2016 ISBN 978-3-319-23155-6). The essays are well worth reading.  And the approach of the editors is refreshingly insightful:
 Law as a social phenomenon is deeply embedded in the culture and tradition of a particular nation, or community. Yet often comparativists focus on the normative structure and system and stay at the surface f the legal system, while treating any extra-legal cultural and social factors either as irrelevant, or as something to overcome. To talk about legal culture is sometimes considered an excuse for deviation from what is understood to be the usual understanding of law, or a symbol of less developed, problematic society.  From this perspective, culture is something outside the law, and indeed antagonistic to law.  Our research project challenges that approach and seeks to bring the cultural aspect with its multidimensionality to the forefront of our research. (Liukkunen and Chen, "Developing a Fundamental Labour Rights in China--A New Approach to Implementation," in Fundamental Labour Rights in China, supra, 1, 3).

Conference Announcement: "China’s Guiding Cases System Turns Six: Retrospect and Prospect" 北京研讨会/Hong Kong Seminar English Only



China’s Guiding Cases System Turns Six: Retrospect and Prospect

The following two Guiding Cases Seminars will feature as speakers the Honorable Judge GUO Feng (郭鋒法官) (Supreme People’s Court), the Honorable Judge DING Xiaoyu (丁晓雨法官) (Tianjin Binhai New Area People’s Court), WANG Zigiang (王自强) (National Copyright Administration of China), and YU Jianlong (于建龙) (China Chamber of International Commerce and CIETAC), among others (see below).  Please register here for FREE admission. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Side Event at the 2nd Session of the Intergovernmental Working Group for a Comprehensive Business and Human Rights Treaty: Exploring the Content of the Proposed Treaty on Business and Human Rights--Academic Reflections

Side event organized by Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Thursday, 27 October 2016 (1-3pm)
Room XXVII, Palais des Nations
 The first two sessions of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG) ‘shall be dedicated to conducting constructive deliberations on the content, scope, nature and form of the future international instrument’. The OEIGWG Chairperson-Rapporteur is then expected to ‘prepare elements for the draft legally binding instrument for substantive negotiations at the commencement of the third session’.

Against this backdrop, this panel comprising several academics working in the area of business and rights will discuss concrete options about the content of the proposed treaty in order to enable states, businesses and civil society organisations taking an informed position on the treaty. Issues such as the following will be discussed: 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Detaching the Judicial Role from the Judge—A Reflection on The Nature of Judicial Reform in China

The issue of judicial reform, and of the working style of the judge, has been at the forefront recently in China. Both national and foreign scholars, politicians, civil society elements and the like have weighed in on the issue. Each of them have their own axes to grind. Foreigners are looking for convergence with their own standards, ideologies, and practices—however contested these may be in their own home states. The national debate on judicial reform reflects playing out of more complex politics involving not merely the technical issues of judicial efficiency and operations, but also touching on the character of the judge, the judicial role, the relationship between judge and law, and the role of law within a Marxist Leninist political framework. I have recently considered some of these issues.

But underlying all of these debates—some normative and some technical/methodological, is a fundamental issue that tends to go unexamined. That issue touches on the connection between the judge-judiciary and the exercise of the judicial function. When people speak to judicial reform, they use that as a shorthand to speak to the judge embedded within the institution of the judiciary. That, I suggest, overly narrows and centers the issue of judging and its connection of political system legitimacy on the institution of the judiciary rather than on the systems created for judging—and the legitimacy enhancing normative constraints of judging detached from the institution of the judiciary, though also there applied .

Friday, October 14, 2016

More Movement in U.S. Cuban Relations: Publication of Updated Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR)

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

This from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing publication of updated Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR):

The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 (the "CACR"), to further implement the new policy direction toward Cuba that the President announced in December 2014. These changes are intended to further engage and empower the Cuban people and promote political, social, and economic reform in Cuba by easing sanctions related to, among others, scientific collaboration, humanitarian activities, trade and commerce, and travel. The CACR amendment will be published in the Federal Register on Monday (October 17, 2016), at which time the changes will take effect. OFAC is also publishing a number of new and updated Frequently Asked Questions, a Fact Sheet, and updated Travel Guidance pertaining to this regulatory amendment.

For more information on this specific action, please visit our Recent Actions page.
The announcement along with the published "Fact Sheet", with links, follows.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Debating Guantanamo: Special Issue on the Guantanamo Naval Base

Ariana Hernandez Reguant reports for Cuba-Counterpoints on a a new focus on the Guantanamo Naval Base closure.
Special Issue on the Guantánamo Naval Base!

Legal scholars Michael J. Strauss and Larry Catá Backer debate the return of the base to Cuba. Odalis Márquez, Julie Schwietert Collazo, and Dan E. Waliceck provide testimonies from their visits to the base in 1994, 2006, and a few weeks ago respectively. We also have an original translation of the late Cuban filmmaker Jorge Massip's reflection on this experimental documentary on the relation between the American Base and the Cuban city, a sneak preview of Guantanamo resident José Ramón Sánchez’s new collection of poems titled “Gitmo”; an overview of Cuban artists’ representations of the base, an article by Esther Whitfield on the art scene on the Cuban side; and a review of Elizabeth Campisi’s new book Escape to Miami on the 1994 Balsero Crisis. Our regular columnists Kris Juncker and Alan West-Duran complete the issue.

Links to the contributions follow.