There are several efforts underway at multiple levels—national, bilateral, regional and multilateral—aimed at reforming the IIA regime. These reform efforts are operating in parallel to developments in other areas of international investment governance, some of which have advanced quickly over the past year, including the structured discussions on investment facilitation at the WTO, as well as efforts in the UN context to craft a binding treaty on business and human rights. This year’s UNCTAD High-Level IIA Conference assessed the progress made to date since launching UNCTAD’s 10 Options for Phase 2 of IIA Reform, looking at trends across multiple areas of international investment governance, as well as across world regions. This ITN Insight summarizes the key takeaways from the 2019 event and considerations for Phase 2 going forward.
The 2016 decision on Argentina’s counterclaim in the Urbaser case provided a frustrating reminder that the international legal regime as it stands is insufficient in holding businesses accountable for human rights violations. Efforts are underway within the UN context to help address this challenge, though how effective the legally binding treaty on business and human rights will be in reconciling the human rights and investment law regimes will depend significantly on its design. It will also depend on how adjudicators treat it relative to other treaties, among other factors. This ITN Insight provides an update on the negotiating state of play for this binding treaty, based on the October 2019 talks in Geneva. It highlights important considerations for negotiators, drawing from lessons learned in international investment law and related areas.
The Revised Draft of a Treaty on Business and Human Rights: Ground-breaking improvements and brighter prospects
This past July, the chairperson of a working group tasked with negotiating an international treaty on business and human rights circulated an updated draft text for consideration in the fifth round of negotiations, to be held October 14–18, 2019 in Geneva. This document features a series of innovations, including extending the scope of the treaty beyond transnational organizations to include all business enterprises, along with bringing much needed clarity on how this treaty might interact with the wide range of trade and investment agreements already in place. Carlos Lopez describes these innovations in detail, showing their changes relative to the “zero draft” and outlining how they may affect upcoming negotiations.
Enhancing Environmental Protection in International Investment Law Through the Integration of International Civil Liability Principles
Investor–state arbitration has repeatedly proven ineffective in addressing environmental damages that host states suffer as a result of investment activities. This piece examines what lessons can be learned from international civil liability conventions, which are specifically designed to ensure victims’ compensation in cases of environmental harm. The author then explores which principles from these conventions could be adapted for use in investment treaties.
Protecting Social Rights Using the Amicus Curiae Procedure in Investment Arbitration: A smokescreen against third parties?
Arguments submitted by an amicus curiae (a “friend of the court”) have become increasingly common in investment arbitration. Many of these arguments deal with internationally recognized social rights, such as the right to water or food. This piece considers the restrictive conditions on amici curiae admission, the frequent reference to social rights issues in amici briefs, and the challenges in presenting these social rights arguments. The author advances possible actions that amici and states can take to make their social rights arguments more effective in an investment law context.
CSR refers to rules and practices companies follow voluntarily to limit the negative social, environmental and other externalities caused by their activities. There is a trend to incorporate CSR standards in investment treaties. Could CSR clauses be useful in consolidating enforceable investor obligations and serving as a basis for state counterclaims?
Parkerings–Compagniet AS v. Republic of Lithuania, ICSID Case No. ARB/05/8 (Originally published in 2011 in International Investment Law and Sustainable Development: Key cases from 2000–2010; republished on this website on October 18, […]
World Duty Free Co. Ltd. v. Republic of Kenya, ICSID Case No. ARB/00/7 (Originally published in 2011 in International Investment Law and Sustainable Development: Key cases from 2000–2010; republished on this website […]
Siemens A.G. v. Republic of Argentina, ICSID Case No. ARB/02/8 (Originally published in 2011 in International Investment Law and Sustainable Development: Key cases from 2000–2010; republished on this website on October […]
Phoenix Action Ltd. v. Czech Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB/06/5 (Originally published in 2011 in International Investment Law and Sustainable Development: Key cases from 2000–2010; republished on this website on October 18, […]
Burlington Resources Inc. v. Republic of Ecuador, ICSID Case No. ARB/08/5 (Published in 2018 in International Investment Law and Sustainable Development: Key cases from the 2010s and on this website on […]
Meaningful and effective remedies need to be provided to those injured by business-related human rights abuses. An intergovernmental working group at the United Nations is working to bridge gaps among stakeholders and negotiate a binding instrument on transnational corporations and other businesses with respect to human rights.
UNCTAD’s 2017 High-level IIA Conference: Moving Forward on Addressing Older-Generation International Investment Agreements
Over 300 experts gathered in Geneva to take stock of the sustainable development-oriented reform of the investment treaty regime and discuss policy options for modernizing the existing stock of older-generation treaties. Participants recognized that multilateral collaboration would be key to addressing the complex IIA regime.
Can Foreign Investors Be Held Liable for Human Rights Violations? International Human Rights Law and Beyond
Host states have had the challenge to protect their citizens from human rights violations caused by multinationals. This paper explains the bases of states’ obligations under international human rights law and how foreign investors may be held responsible.
As part of the World Investment Forum (WIF) 2016, negotiators of international investment agreements (IIAs) and various stakeholders convened at the High-Level IIA Conference on July 19, 2016 in Nairobi, […]
During the 10th Annual Forum of Developing Country Investment Negotiators, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from November 7 to 10, representatives from Brazil and India announced that they had recently initialled a bilateral investment agreement (BIT).
India has started to send official notices to terminate bilateral investment treaties (BITs) to 57 partner countries with which it has BITs that have already expired or will expire in the near […]
The popularity of BITs in large parts of the developing world was due to a failure to appreciate their bite. Why would so many governments sign up to some of the most potent instruments in international economic law without even caring to check what the treaties meant?
Three reports by CAITISA, Ecuador’s citizen audit commission on bilateral investment treaties (BITs), were leaked by online newspaper Diagonal on January 24, 2016.
More than 300 experts and delegates from member states, international organizations, NGOs, the private sector and academia attended the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Meeting on the […]
Canada and Dow Chemical settle claim over pesticide ban A controversial NAFTA investment dispute between Dow AgroSciences and the government of Canada was settled this May. The settlement agreement involves […]