Advertising regulation: an insight into recent developments

On 14 June 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority, the UK’s advertising watchdog, introduced new rules which target ads featuring gender stereotypes likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence. The ban was imposed because the regulator found some portrayals could contribute to “limiting people’s potential”.

Dr. Alexandros Antoniou, Lecturer in Media Law, takes a look at the first ever ads to have been formally investigated by the Authority under its new rules. His piece on The International Forum for Responsible Media, can be accessed here.

Gendered Perspectives on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Responses

A Dialogue on the Sahel Region and North Africa

Dr. Carla Ferstman, Senior Lecturer in Law, Dr. Emily Jones, Lecturer in Law, Floriane Borel, Agnieszka Szafranowska

On 29-30 July 2019, the authors  organised an expert workshop at the School of Law, in association with the Essex Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub. The meeting brought together academics (working on international law, feminist legal theory, international relations, terrorism and security studies) and practitioners (working on gender, peace and security in the countries and regions of focus).

The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the challenges associated with the women, peace and security and counter-terrorism frameworks, from a feminist perspective. It also provided an opportunity to consider the ways in which the international and regional frameworks represent diverse perspectives and views and how they can better do so. The meeting provided an opportunity to share experiences and practices, to develop common understandings and to map out how global feminist scholarly and activist communities can helpfully engage with these debates.

We were delighted to host such a dynamic group of experts for two days of what proved to be powerful, intensive and important discussions.  We are excited about the prospects for building the next phases of the work, and the possibilities this will have for research collaborations and related policy work. These issues are multi-disciplinary and complex and it is so important to work collaboratively. We are hopeful that the next phases of our work will extend and deepen these collaborations.

From left to right: Josephine Roele, Gender Action for Peace and Security network (GAPS) and Dr. Emily Jones, School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex 

The Global Context

In 2015, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2242 was adopted as part of the wider Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. This resolution brought together the WPS agenda and counter-terrorism for the first time, and urged States and the United Nations to ensure the participation and leadership of women’s organizations in devising strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremism. It also encouraged the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism to integrate women’s participation, leadership and empowerment as core to United Nations strategy and responses and requested the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate to integrate gender as a cross-cutting issue within their respective mandates.

Resolution 2242 is key in noting the need to situate women’s voices at the centre of the counter-terrorism agenda. The resolution has helped foster debates between the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, UN Women and WPS. However, there has been debate amongst scholars and practitioners about bringing the feminist project together with the by now well-established post 9/11 international security regimes. Furthermore, references to women in the Resolution are arguably too superficial to engender a meaningful intersection between these very different agendas. Some of these concerns were highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. In her February 2018 report on counter terrorism and emergency legal responses, she highlighted the harmful impacts of gender-blind counterterrorism regulations. Also, there is clearly a great need to better include activist and practitioner voices.

From left to right: Jeannine Ella A. Abatan, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Regional office for West Africa, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin; Dr Sara M.T. Polo, Department of Government, University of Essex; Valentine Hambyem, School of Law, University of Essex

The Regional Context

Multiple terrorist groups operate within the Sahel region and North Africa, including Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, AQIM and other Al Qaeda affiliates. Such terrorist threats pose a great threat the security of states and the human security for those who live there, impacting on human development, good governance and rule of law. Killings by terror groups have led to mass displacement and encampment where malnutrition, disease and gender-based violence are prevalent. The increased use of sexual violence and abduction from schools as tactics of systematic terror is a demonstration that terrorism and extremism target and affect women, men, girls and boys in different ways. Disappearances of male detainees impact female family members, who bear the burden of anxiety, harassment, social exclusion and economic hardship. Similar effects ensue from the prolonged detention without trial of male family members, extraordinary rendition and forced deportations. However, while women are victims of terrorism and counter-terrorism measures, they can also be volitional actors in both terrorist entities and counter-terrorism measures. Terrorism has also ravaged state infrastructure and undermined economic growth, fuelled by diminished investor confidence and struggling tourist sectors.

The fight against terrorism has increased security spending, which has diverted resources from development initiatives. Also, some governments have used anti-terrorism policies to prey on minority, marginalised, religious or ethnic groups. In addition, some governments use vague terrorism definitions to punish people, particularly political dissenters, and to suppress social movements, including those that seek gender equality.

The particular security challenges in the Sahel region and North Africa have led to strategic partnerships between the UN and the African Union such as the United Nations-African Union Joint Task Force on Peace and Security.  Similarly, the “G5 Sahel” – an institutional framework for coordination and monitoring of cooperation on security and development policies between Burkina Faso, the Republic of Mali, the Republic of Mauritania, the Republic of Niger and the Republic of Chad, launched a new Women’s Platform in Niger in October 2018. The goal of the platform is to increase women’s involvement in areas of peace, justice and security in the region by bringing together country leaders and civil society organizations. Additionally, there has been increased attention to such challenges within the AU, such as by the AU Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security.

Our Next Steps

We will be releasing a report of the workshop which will summarise the main issues that arose and provide some analysis of next steps.

Workshop participants in our Human Rights Seminar Room

Research Updates on Corporate Governance, Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Regulation

Dr. Onyeka Osuji, Reader in Law, has been busy this year publishing and presenting his research at an international conference. Here are a few updates on his recent activities:

Corporate Governance Publications

Edited book: F Ngwu, O Osuji, C Ogbechie and D Williamson (eds), Enhancing Board Effectiveness: Institutional, Regulatory and Functional Perspectives for Developing and Emerging Markets (Routledge 2019).

Enhancing Board Effectiveness seeks to examine the conceptualization and role of the board in a variety of contexts and articulate solutions for improving the effectiveness of the board, especially in developing and emerging markets. Enhancing Board Effectiveness therefore addresses the following central questions:

  1. To what extent is the concept and role of the board evolving?
  2. What rights, powers, responsibilities and other contemporary and historical experiences can enhance the effectiveness of the board, especially in the particular contexts of developing and emerging markets?
  3. What socio-economic, political, regulatory and institutional factors/actors influence the effectiveness of the board and how can the policies and practices of such actors exert such influences?
  4. In what ways can a reconstructed concept of the board serve as a tool for theoretical, analytical, regulatory and pragmatic assessment of its effectiveness?

In examining these issues, Enhancing Board Effectiveness investigates theoretical, socio-economic, historical, empirical, regulatory, comparative and inter-disciplinary approaches. Academics in the relevant fields of accounting, behavioural psychology/economics, development studies, financial regulation, law and management/organizational studies, political economy and, public administration will find this book of high interest.

Book chapter: O Osuji, ‘Club Theory and Performance Evaluation’ in F Ngwu, O Osuji, C Ogbechie and D Williamson (eds), Enhancing Board Effectiveness: Institutional, Regulatory and Functional Perspectives for Developing and Emerging Markets (Routledge 2019).

This chapter applies the club theoretic model to contextualise voluntary clubs in public interest regulation through corporate governance, particularly in the developing and emerging markets. Drawing on the political theory of corporation and the institutional perspective, the chapter proposes an enforced self-regulatory system for directors’ individual and collective performance evaluation that centres on voluntary clubs and is propped by facilitative public regulation. It argues that when voluntary clubs are properly and legally equipped to effectively perform corporate governance regulatory roles, directors, shareholders, market participants, stakeholders and society can all benefit.

While it frames corporate governance clubs within regulatory institutional frameworks, the chapter demonstrates the impact of voluntary rules, standards and procedures on individual director and board effectiveness and therefore aligns private governance with broader society expectations. It highlights internal, external and independent quantitative and qualitative methods for evaluating board performance and demonstrates how barriers to improvement can be identified and tackled and how positive factors for effectiveness can be recognised and improved on.

The proposals include research, training, education and other methods for continuous individual and collective development, operation of stringent voluntary clubs at industry and sub-sector levels, preventative, retributive and corrective enforcement measures, club membership as a prerequisite, performance-related certification, licensing and disqualification, and facilitative public regulation. 

Corporate Responsibility Publications

Book chapter: O Osuji, ‘Tackling Corruption through Corporate Social Responsibility’ in J Ellis (ed), Corruption, Social Sciences and the Law: Exploration Across the Disciplines (Routledge 2019)

This chapter examines how corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be used as an effective solution to official corruption, especially in developing countries. Despite wide-ranging legal interventions, official corruption persists as a significant public interest issue for various reasons. It is shown that the law’s limited scope and effectiveness has engendered alternative and complementary anti-corruption regulation opportunities within the scope of CSR. Ideally, CSR can help to identify gaps in substantive law and enforcement process and how to plug them. However, the anti-corruption impact of CSR seems modest to date.

The chapter proceeds to establish the theoretical linkages between CSR and anti-corruption principally through the political CSR, governance CSR and institutional theoretic models. It identifies effective self-regulation, accountability and responsible global leadership as the core principles of an anti-corruption CSR paradigm before outlining its components. It demonstrates how corporate conscience, whistleblowing and individual and collective responsibility can overcome informal signals and ends with a restatement of the challenges and opportunities in using CSR for anti-corruption promotion. Before concluding, the chapter outlines certain steps corporations can undertake to demonstrate anti-corruption CSR.

Conference paper: Dr. Osuji was invited to present at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Kuwait International Law School (May 2019) a paper entitled ‘Corporate Social Responsibility, Stakeholder Needs and Sustainable Development: Overcoming Contextual and Regulatory Challenges through the Values Paradigm’.

The emergence of sustainable development as a matter of global concern has been complemented by the recognition of the roles of different segments of society in promoting it. As the Sustainable Development Goals 2015 (SDGs) exemplify, corporations and other private stakeholders are increasingly regarded as active partners in the sustainable development agenda. The tools for advancing corporate and stakeholder involvement in sustainable development therefore includes corporate social responsibility (CSR), which was originally conceived as a voluntary management tool.

Four elements of CSR are arguably critical in relation to sustainable development. First, despite its traditional conception, one of the consequences of the growing global influence of CSR is that corporations, especially the large, high profile and consumer-facing ones, realistically do not have the option of ‘doing nothing’ with regards to socio-economic issues such as sustainable development. Second, the stakeholder framework of CSR implicitly acknowledges contextualism while sustainable development, as the SDGs show, also accept contextual priorities. Third, notwithstanding the universalist/internationalist theory, the concept of glocalisation recognises that local and global standards can co-exist in a mutually reinforcing manner. The fourth significant factor is the emergent recognition of CSR as a potential complementary regulatory tool by public and private authorities (Osuji, 2015; Osuji and Obibuaku, 2016). As exemplified by regulatory actions in some jurisdictions, the regulation of CSR enables its application to suit the sustainable development agenda of specific jurisdictional contexts. Overall, orthodox CSR practice seems to have followed a ‘stakeholder needs’ approach which can adapt CSR to promote sustainable development as a voluntary or regulated activity. 

Nonetheless, the following questions arise:

  1. Are there implications for using the stakeholder needs CSR model in promoting sustainable development in a specific jurisdictional context?
  2. Does contextualism allow a ‘values’ approach to CSR even when it is being used as a regulatory tool?
  3. To what extent can a ‘values’ CSR approach improve or complement the stakeholder needs model in addressing sustainable development in specific jurisdictional contexts?

Drawing on the institutional, including Scott (2001, 2008), and stakeholder theoretic models, this paper argues that a stakeholder needs CSR model may be inadequate for advancing sustainable development, especially in an emerging country context. The issues this raises include disguised motivations, insufficient clarity of goals, unintended assumption of legal responsibility and covert corruption. An alternative to the stakeholder needs model is the values approach which has sociological and institutional foundations.

The paper demonstrates that a values paradigm is feasible and may be an imperative aid for applying the stakeholder needs CSR model to sustainable development. The values paradigm can improve effectiveness of a regulated CSR as a sustainable development promotion and private regulation mechanism.  

Corporate Regulation Publication

Edited book: J Griffin, HK Chan, O Osuji and H Choo, 3D Printing: the development of a technical licensing framework with a focus on China (Routledge 2019).

The book is an output of the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded project, entitled ‘A Technological Licensing Framework for 3D Printed Content: A Focus on China’.

More specifically, it is a collection of materials, relating to empirical interviews, a work placement, workshops and publications that have been carried out in one of the world leading research projects into the legal impact of 3D printing. The project was funded by the AHRC and Newton Fund, and was largely carried out within China. It was designed to establish the perceived legal challenges faced by 3D printing companies, as well as a technical framework for an operational automated technical licensing system.

The main research questions addressed by this work are the following:

  1. How can an automated licensing platform framework enable 3D printing companies to licence 3D printed content and files in new ways? Examples would be online databases and/or the printing of 3D computer game characters.
  2. What is an effective technological solution to online licensing of 3D content?
  3. What is the impact of such a system upon copyright law, in particular copyright law in China and copyright law internationally?
  4. How will this pioneer the development of law that is digital in nature?