Category: Opening Sessions World Law Congres Cartagena de Indias 2021

Telework at the WLC Opening Session London

Inaugurated by the WJA President for UK, Christina Blacklaws, and Diego Solana, Coordinator of the World Law Congress Colombia 2021, the fifth Opening Session, celebrated from London on December 14, brought together Íñigo Sagardoy, Michael Burd, Renate Hornung-Draus, Daniel Funes de Rioja and Mbhazima Shilowa to discuss about teleworking.

Under the name “New ways of working and the future of work“, this new panel of dicussion focused on how current work trends should be regulated, the key factors for their transformation and the role each stakeholder should play in this field.

“In terms of work, this pandemic has changed everything, everywhere,” said Christina Blacklaws, President of WJA UK, immediate past President of the Law Society of England & Wales and President of Lawtech UK, who recognized that “we are now at the best possible moment to develop technological innovations that will change the way we deliver our services”. Blacklaws also shared data from a British study that “shows that the Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation by 5.3 years,” so that “we all know more about technology now than we did eight months ago”.

We are at the best time to learn technological innovations that will change the way we work

The debate began with the moderation of Iñigo Sagardoy, co-organizer of the event, president of Sagardoy Abogados and professor of labor law at the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, who introduced the speakers after analyzing that “coronavirus has accelerated the transformation of organizations and we are at a turning point from which there will be significant regulatory changes in the ways in which companies are organized.

This scenario is confirmed by Renate Hornung-Draus, regional vice-president of the International Organization of Employers for Europe and Central Asia, who assured that “although the measures taken in most western countries to contain the pandemic have accelerated the digital transformation, they have also shown some deficits in the digital infrastructure, as well as its limits”. She advocates for a hybrid model of work with physical presence in the offices, in order to create corporate culture, but always respecting individual freedom. In this matter, she pointed out the difference between teleworking and mobile working, assuring that Germany has legislation on the former: “teleworking refers to a person working from home, it is at a distance, but in a fixed workplace; and it implies that there has to be an agreement between employee and employer by which the rules are respected”.

Michael Burd, head of the employment division at Lewis Silkim (London) and an expert in telework regulation, examined how labor regulation has evolved over the years: “what we see is that legislation and regulation are lagging behind the reality of work”, and acknowledged that “the feeling I have is that it has only increased with the evolution of technology, which is increasingly rapid, and has become more intense with the changes in work practices that have forced us all to change our way of working”. For this reason, and in the event that a worker remotely provides services from another country different from that of the company, he called for “legislation that contemplates key points, such as where to pay taxes, health insurance conditions, social security…” and concluded by recognizing “that local labor legislation in some cases complicates solving the global nature of this type of work”.

With regard to the regulation and negotiation of conditions, Daniel Funes de Rioja, vice president of the International Labor Organization and president of the Argentine Business Confederation, said that “unions must adapt to new realities and contemplate the changes from the perspective of the fourth industrial revolution, otherwise, if they continue thinking in terms of the second or third, technology will evolve without them and a gap will emerge”.

On this matter, Mbhazima Shilowa, former Secretary General of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and former Prime Minister of the South African province of Gauteng, set the current situation as a starting point “to find in the upcoming years better ways to combine different aspects such as, for example, the penetration of the Internet in all places”.

Social distance and flexibility are required, but this will not be possible without quickly resolving the social difference“.

Among the changes brought about by Covid-19, there is a debate about the vaccine and how it can affect workers’ relationship with their company. Michael Burd highlighted whether employers can demand their employees to be vaccinated or terminate them for not doing so.

Medical data is considered sensitive information and this will lead to searching for a balance between privacy and security for everyone… This is about protecting health at a collective level“.

The Opening Session London was the fifth preliminary session to the World Law Congress Colombia 2021, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Colombian constitution. Through the projection of an institutional video, the president of the host country, Ivan Duque, has committed to “continue promoting the strengthening of the rule of law as fertile ground to allow growth and welfare, development and freedom of citizens”.

Opening Session Washington: “Human Rights and Justice”

On November 12, the WJA celebrated the fourth Opening Session of the World Law Congress Colombia 2021 from the Headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

“We are far from a reality where human rights are protected in real time, and there is a long way ahead to guarantee effective mechanisms”.  This is how the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, assessed the current situation in the debate “Human Rights and Justice: Fundamental Pillars for the Strengthening of Democratic Systems“. Almagro recognized that “political systems have to be structured in the best way to make justice work in societies, and this is the independence of power”.  He also pointed out that “the main problem of democracy is impunity, a red line that separates it from dictatorship.

Tamara Sujú, WJA Representative before the International Criminal Court and director of the CASLA Institute, chaired the panel and highlighted its importance, assuring that “respect for human rights and justice tells us when democracy degenerates into dictatorial government”, and she bet on universal justice to denounce the crimes of Latin American dictatorships.

In this direction, the former president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, highlighted how tyrannies are detrimental to justice in the Latin American region and assured that “in this area everyone talks about human rights, but for many it is an electoral ploy”. He added, furthermore, that “we must be careful to avoid people who do not really believe in human rights from reaching power, since not everyone can defend human rights”.

Regarding the situation in Latin America, Dita Charanzová, Vice President of the European Parliament, highlighted the fundamental role played by international institutions against countries that violate human rights and highlighted the action of the European Parliament, which, she said, has openly supported investigations into crimes against humanity. In this sense, she requested “that the international community continue to speak out in order to continue rejecting dictatorships and, thus, achieve the absolute reestablishment of human rights in those Latin American countries subject to these regimes”.

Meanwhile, Karen Longaric, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, emphasized that “only when the rule of law is solid, the justice system is independent” and noted that “even when governments emerge from elections or votes, they can have dictatorial and totalitarian characteristics”. Regarding justice, she stressed that it “does not exist in times of dictatorship, because the judicial body and the Public Prosecutor’s Office are obsequious with dictators” and she questioned the role of international human rights organizations since, she assured, “they have a role to play in protecting human rights, but some of them do not work or do so poorly because they have a biased view towards judging or appreciating human rights violations”.

Javier Cremades, president of the World Jurist Association, concluded the panel alleging that “there is no assured peace if there is no submission to the law” and stated that “human rights are there so each person can live their life with dignity and see all their objective value recognized”.

This Opening Session was the fourth meeting preceding the World Law Congress to be held in Colombia in 2021. The President of the host country, Iván Duque, also participated in this session, and through the projection of an institutional video he committed himself to “continue promoting the strength of the rule of law as fertile ground to allow growth and well-being, development and freedom for citizens” and assured that “we will continue working to build a better future for all, based on the strength and guarantees of the rule of law”.