Putting the pieces together: human rights and investment law

Julia Cruz

LL.M. candidate and researcher at the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the Harvard Law School

Businessman offers Protection for his Team.

“Argentina […] suggests that […] human rights obligations to assure its population the right to water somehow trump its obligations under the Bilateral Investment Treaties […]. The Tribunal does not find a basis for such a conclusion either in the BITs or international law. Argentina is subject to both international obligations, i.e. human rights and treaty obligation, and must respect both of them equally.”
ICSID Case No. ARB/03/19

As developing countries strive to improve their population’s wellbeing, foreign direct investment has been looked to as an important source of revenue. Through their investments, foreign companies can enable increased access to infrastructure and public services, such as water and energy, while also providing jobs and tax revenue. In order to attract these resources, countries enter into international treaties that seek to decrease the risks foreign companies would normally face. They establish protections for investors, and give them the possibility of resorting to international arbitration tribunals if they feel that such guarantees have been violated. Such systems are known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The underlying idea is for states to send investors a message: “our country is open and stable; and if you encounter any problems, there will be an independent grievance mechanism available to assess your claims.”

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Entrenching the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Can the Inter-American System Help?

Claret Vargas

Researcher and area coordinator in the International Section, Dejusticia 

Article previously published in Global Rights Blog

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Bauxite mining in Suriname. Photo by: Visuals Studio Brazil

It is neither a secret nor a surprise that the effects of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the GPs) have not yet been felt by the communities and individuals most affected by corporate activity.  Today, as in 2011, when the GPs were unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council, there are good reasons for skepticism of this non-binding instrument, and for the support of the process toward a binding treaty on Business and Human Rights, which began in 2014. Among the many critiques of the GP implementation process have been: a lack of attention to access to remedies for victims; unfair, badly designed and subpar grievance mechanisms created by corporations; State failure to regulate corporations to ensure and protect the human rights of communities that are affected by their activities; corporate resistance to provide reparations for harms they cause. The problem, as with many human rights norms, is effective implementation.

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The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights needs to be more inclusive, improve business engagement

Smoke Stack from Sugar Factory in Belle Glade Florida

Photo: Kim Seng

By: Katharine Valencia

Program Officer at DPLF

Last month, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) hosted the 4th annual Forum on Business and Human Rights. This massive event attracted upwards of 2,300 attendees from civil society, government, and the private sector. The three-day Forum provides the opportunity for the diverse BHR community to engage with fellow practitioners, activists, and people on the front lines of the most pressing BHR issues today. This year’s theme was “Tracking Progress and Ensuring Coherence,” and discussion topics included the pending treaty on BHR, access to remedy for victims, and land rights. (full list of panels and events held during this year’s forum; most are available for streaming here ).

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