IISD's Southern Agenda on Investment is one of, if not the first, deliberate effort to look at how to approach international investment negotiations based on an agenda that takes the priorities of developing countries as its starting point. Existing international investment agreements are based on a 50-year-old model that remains focussed on the interests of investors from developed countries.
This paper identifies major issues of concern for developing countries that are vital from the perspective of sustainable development but that are not being addressed in the current negotiating processes, beginning with the very need for investment to support development goals. When these issues are identified, it becomes clear that, although there are more than 2,000 international investment agreements that have been signed, they address but a small proportion of the issues that require attention if international investment is to promote sustainable development.
In practice, international investment agreements are now about governance for globalization, but they fall far short of the standards one can expect for such a legal structure. The Southern Agenda on Investment seeks to begin a dialogue on a different approach, one focussed on the needs of the vast majority of people on the planet. It is an agenda—and a dialogue—that must involve more actors, cover more issues and be better at balancing the interests of investors; host states and local communities; and home states.