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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