Social Justice Expertise Center

Developments in globalization and industrialization continuously push governments, international organizations and NGOs to reexamine the opportunities available to people at all levels of society to attain basic socioeconomic necessities. Research into existing social justice initiatives has shown a need for an institution that serves as a one-stop shop for individuals, businesses, NGOs, and policymakers seeking advice and information or needing technical assistance relating to social justice; specifically pertaining to international labor rights and regulatory framework. 

Therefore, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and Leiden University has established such an institution, the Social Justice Expertise Center (SJEC). The term “social justice” as utilized by SJEC relates to the recognition, application, implementation and enforcement of values and norms that promote the human dignity, equality, and economic self-sufficiency of all people through economic opportunity, employment and social welfare. Challenges in this domain often relate to the working conditions of employees as well as to a social protection floor for the unemployed.



SJEC aims to provide advice and information regarding to the adoption, application, implementation, and enforcement of existing social justice frameworks by facilitating dialogue among relevant stakeholders. This dialogue can be dostered in particular through policy roundtables. The inaugural SJEC roundtable was convened on 19 May 2004 on the them The Enforcement of Fundamental Labor rights. It brought together labor rights practitioners, representatives from the private sector and international organizations as well as academics to discuss the fragmentation of instruments and mechanisms promoting fundamental labor rights and elaborate ways for more coherent and effective approaches moving forward.


In addition to its convening role, SJEC develops research agendas and thematic capacity-building initiatives to promote social justice. Policymakers and NGOs seeking to advance social justice are limited by a complex set of rules and regulations, both global and regional, making it virtually impossible for them to effectively recognize and apply the appropriate norm when necessary—a significant shortcoming in the current international and regional social justice governance system. SJEC programs are designed to detect these deficiencies and address them for all stakeholders. To this end, SJEC is currently developing the International Labor Rights Case Law (ILaRC) journal. ILaRC shall primarily focus on fundamental rights at the work place. Geared towards labor rights lawyers and other practitioners, the journal shall produce overviews of relevant cases, texts of decisions (including English translations), link them to other relevant decisions, and contain commentaries on these decisions. The first issue of ILaRC is expected to be launched in early 2015. Furthermore, SJEC has plans to develop an online database containing a sophisticated search engine that will allow labor rights stakeholders access to all forms of structured documentation relating to the subject.


Recent Publications

Paul van der Heijden & Ruben Zandvliet, “Enforcement of Fundamental Labor Rights: The Network Approach, Closing the Governance Gaps in Low-Wage Manufacturing Industries,” Policy Brief 12 (September 2014).

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News and Commentary

Prof. Van der Heijden Chairs ILO Committee on Freedom of Association Meeting
04 Nov 2013  |  by Professor Paul van der Heijden


Professor Paul van der Heijden, Senior Visiting Scholar at The Hague Institute, chaired the October 2013 meeting of the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva. Paul van der Heijden has been the independent Chair of this tripartite committee since 2002.

ILO Committee on Freedom of Association
28 Jun 2013   |  by Manuella Appiah


Paul van der Heijden, senior visiting scholar of The Hague Institute for Global Justice and head of the Social Justice Expertise Center (SJEC), chaired a several-day meeting of the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on 30-31 May and 7 June in Geneva, Switzerland.



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Senior Researcher
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