REGULATING THE SOCIAL IMPACTS OF SPECULATIVE FINANCIAL PRACTICES
Meeting sponsored by the Essex Business and Human Rights Project and the Law Society of England and Wales
18 May 2011, 7-9 PM
The Law Society’s Hall – 113 Chancery Lane – London
The world’s attention on the link between Human Rights and Business has turned to the finance sector. Principles developed by John Ruggie, UN Special Representative on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, can potentially apply to the impacts of financial activity. What influence might this have on speculative practices designed to manage risk, and how might the social impacts of that activity be assessed?
The aim of this meeting is to encourage discussion of the issues with the audience, for which ample time at the session will be provided
1830-1900 Arrival and registration
1900-2100 Roundtable discussion
Chairs: Tony Fisher, Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society and Professor Sheldon Leader, Director of the Essex and Human Rights Project
Speakers introducing themes for discussion:
– Dr. Mary Dowell-Jones, University of Nottingham: ‘The challenge of linking human rights and speculative practices designed to manage financial risk’
– Professor Neil Kellard, University of Essex: ‘The consequences of commodity trading in food’
2100 – 2200 Reception
There is no charge for attendance. To assist in planning we need an indication of your intention to attend this meeting by 5pm May 2nd, 2011 to firstname.lastname@example.org For those who indicate their intention to attend, a packet with background reading on the issues to be discussed will be provided
SUMMARY OF OPENING STATEMENTS:
Dr. Mary Dowell-Jones, University of Nottingham, will argue that once one ventures into the specialised aspects of international finance – which make up the bulk of financial activity – there is no straightforward way of applying classic human rights methodology that requires reasonably direct traceability of harm from actor to human rights victim. The profile of systemic risk across the financial markets at any given point is dynamic, conditional on the activities of millions of actors spread throughout the system, and very difficult to disentangle. We need to start developing a conceptual work which will map an understanding of human rights values into technical aspects of finance so that we can demonstrate how risk management or capital adequacy, for example, are relevant to human rights and how that relevance may change the way these practices are structured.
Professor Neil Kellard, University of Essex, will consider the principles structuring commodity trading in food, and their impacts. Recent episodes of high and volatile prices for commodities such as wheat, maize and rice have pushed many vulnerable groups into extreme hunger. These commodities have become an asset class included in the portfolio of many institutional investors and traded by hedge funds. This talk examines whether speculative behavior in derivative markets has contributed towards higher and more volatile prices for key commodities. Even when a causal link is difficult to trace, it could be argued the financial community should show that the use of these instruments does not violate the concept of primum non nocere.