RP Law & Business Series: Business & Human Rights

6 August 2014

To register for this complimentary seminarCLICK HERE

This seminar will be held in honour of Fiona Gardiner-Hill.
Staff and students were saddened to hear of the untimely death, in February of Fiona Gardiner-Hill (BA 1984, LLB 1986, LLM 1995), who had lectured on corporate and securities regulation at Sydney Law School and was a Sydney Law School Foundation board member. A member of the M&A team at Herbert Smith Freehills, she had been a partner at the firm since 1996. In 2013, she was appointed to the Takeovers Panel. Known for her brilliant and lateral thinking, she was admired and loved by her peers for her gentle and generous nature.


Issues of human rights are now central to the way in which business engages in cross-border transactions. The publication in 2011 of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights highlights in many different ways the relevance of the conduct of corporations and their complicity in human rights abuses to the protections granted by the legal system. Donald Robertson will explore some of those ways, and how host states and contractual counterparties can use an allegation of human rights violations strategically, as an excuse to override the investor's or contracting party's rights under international treaty law, international contract law or customary international law. The doctrine of necessity and how it responds to the new globalised world of business is one of the most important developments in international law and one that all businesses and their advisors must understand, leading to practical implications in the structuring and conduct of cross border transactions.

Associate Professor Ian Lee will consider these issues from the perspective of both principle and policy. The question of principle is: What should be the extent of the responsibility of business enterprises, and of the individuals who oversee them, to respect or protect human rights? Although a responsibility in principle not to infringe human rights might seem uncontroversial, matters become more complicated when concepts such as complicity and parent company liability are considered. Disagreement also arises as to whether or not it is meaningful to speak of the responsibilities of artificial legal entities (i.e., corporations), unless what is meant are the legal duties of such entities. The policy question is: Assuming that businesses, their managers or both owe responsibilities in relation to human rights, what are the strengths and limitations of the different instruments available to national and international policy makers for giving effect to those responsibilities?

About the speakers

Donald Robertson, Senior partner, Herbert Smith Freehills practises international law and international arbitration arising from commercial transactions. He specialises in international commercial contracts and transactions, and the mechanisms under international law for allocating country and sovereign risk in investments and cross-border transactions. He also has an emphasis on the public international law aspects of corporate social responsibility and human rights as they apply to businesses.

He is an affiliate of the Sydney Centre for International Law, and a member of the Journal of Contract Law's editorial board. An Adjunct Professor of Law at University of Sydney Law School, Donald teaches international contract law and related subjects.

Associate Professor Ian Lee, (University of Toronto)clerked with Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé of the Supreme Court of Canada and Justice Mark MacGuigan of the Federal Court of Appeal, and later served as a legal researcher with the Privy Council Office. He practised with Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in Paris, France, and New York, New York, before joining the Faculty of Law in 2003. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of constitutional law, corporate law and European Union law. Professor Lee is admitted to practice in Ontario and New York.

Chair: Professor Jennifer Hill, Sydney Law School

Law & Business Program 2014

Sydney Law School is pleased to announce its Law & Business Program for 2014. Students can also enrol in single units as part of their professional development under the Legal Professional Development program (LPD). Single unit enrolment students are not required to undertake assignments or examinations.

Click here for more information.

Fiona Gardiner-Hill Student Support Fund

Sydney Law School has established the Fiona Gardiner-Hill Student Support Fund to honour Fiona's contribution to the faculty and the legal community. The fund will provide vital assistance to students studying corporate law. To give in memory of Fiona, please contact Jessica Sullivan on 02 9351 0467 or

Time: 6 - 7.15pm (Registration & refreshments from 5.30pm)

Location: Herbert Smith Freehills, Level 34, ANZ Tower, 161 Castlereagh Street, Sydney

Cost: Complimentary, registration essential as numbers are limited.

Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 1b0e1c68210f271c38010d364b13072b2b542e20261c2d36