Virtual Consultation in support of the UN Working Group’s 2021 Report to the UN General Assembly on Human Rights-Compatible International Investment Agreements
South Centre, 23 June 2021
Foreign direct investment (FDI) should support States’ efforts to “bring the SDGs and goals of the Paris Agreement to life for all people, everywhere.” However, achievement of these objectives is slowed down in the current situation where investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms are included in international investment agreements (IIAs). These mechanisms have increased the exposure of States to claims from foreign investors against regulatory measures taken to protect and guarantee a clean and safe environment, public health, human rights, social inclusion, and poverty reduction.
In the current scenario marked by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, FDI can be a valuable source of financing a better and fairer recovery, including investment needed to achieve the full realisation of all human rights. But to achieve this potential, there is a need to reshape the international investment regime, including through the reform of its substantive rules and standards, as well as of the ISDS mechanisms embedded in existing IIAs.
The South Centre and the United Nations Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises convened a virtual consultation to identify and assess the different challenges developing countries face while negotiating or reforming IIAs in line with their international human rights obligations. The virtual consultation aimed at highlighting and discussing some of the most common concerns and challenges those developing countries face in the promotion of responsible investment practices, including an exploratory discussion about balancing the rights and obligations of investors in IIAs and safeguarding the sovereign right of States to regulate in the public interest for building back better and fairer in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also discussed possible reforms of the ISDS mechanism.
The TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver, Challenges for Africa and Decolonizing Intellectual Property
By Yousuf Vawda
The intellectual property (IP) regimes of African countries are a function of their colonial past, which imposed strong protections, and which have been entrenched through the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). This has had a devastating effect on their ability to access necessary health products both before and during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to reflect on the challenges that African countries face, before considering the implications of the WTO TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 (henceforth, waiver). In assessing the challenges faced by these countries, as well as the possibilities of improving access, this paper argues that while the waiver offers the best available solution to overcome the current supply shortages of a range of COVID-19 health products, in the longer term a break from this past—the decolonization of IP regimes—is necessary.
The WTO TRIPS Waiver Should Help Build Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity in Africa
By Faizel Ismail
The current global health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has re-focused our attention on the inadequacy of the TRIPS agreement and the patent system to address global public health crises. This time, developing countries must ensure that the TRIPS waiver succeeds in creating the impetus for the building of manufacturing capacity in the poorest countries, especially in Africa, for vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. This is the only effective way in which African countries can reduce their dependence on imports of essential medicines and build their health security, contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, for the poorest countries.
Development Priorities for Africa in 2021 and Beyond
By Judith Amelia Louis
The author posits that Covid-19 is not the only major problem facing the global South and Africa in particular, although it is the most pressing for the times 2020-2021. The writer attempts to present important priority areas for attention by policymakers and decision makers at the national and regional levels in Africa within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The paper recognizes that the social, economic, and political problems facing Africa are common to all its nation States and calls upon the African Union to play a more proactive role in shaping policy programs to address these persistent problems, including the crafting of statesmen genuinely committed to ‘people-centered development’. The article discusses the issues impacting select priorities of socio-economic welfare; improved governance; human capital investment; regularization of migration and stemming the ‘brain drain’. Suggested policy actions are prescribed as solutions towards achieving development. Urgent action in controlling their economies with the acquisition and retention of requisite skills and technology is the undertone of the paper given the picture of poverty characterizing basic needs data for the continent. For example, in the health sector there are shortages of medical personnel, a situation magnified by the Covid pandemic.
The author envisions Africa’s development utilizing its vast untapped potential including, inter alia, a young population.
South-South and Triangular Cooperation: lessons from partnership between Argentina and Mozambique
By Federico Villegas
This article reviews some fruitful South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTrC) initiatives between Argentina and Mozambique. The initiatives received political support from both countries and showed that the relationship between South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation can be mutually reinforcing. SSTrC may channel financial resources from development partners to projects and initiatives that can produce highly effective development results.
Financing for development from the perspective of the right to development
Summaries of two reports by Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development
In 2020, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to development, Saad Alfarargi, submitted two reports, one to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the other to the UN General Assembly, on the issue of financing for development (FFD) from the perspective of the right to development (RTD). The first report (A/HRC/45/15) analyzed national-level FFD, while the second report (A/75/167) focused on the international dimension of FFD. In both reports the Special Rapporteur highlighted relevant challenges, with a particular focus on how to ensure the meaningful participation of rights-holders.
Could COVID-19 trigger ‘localizing’ of international investment arbitration?
In light of the challenges and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many developing countries have been unable to effectively participate in international investment arbitration proceedings, traditionally held in locations like Washington D.C. and The Hague. To ease the heavy burdens currently being placed on States and ensuring investor confidence, this Policy Brief argues for the ‘localization’ of investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) proceedings in host States and regions where the investment is actually located. It highlights the various advantages that localizing ISDS can bring, and the different regional initiatives already working towards this purpose. The brief also considers relevant legal and policy aspects, and seeks to provide concrete suggestions for the localization of ISDS as a small step towards the holistic reform of international investment arbitration.
The world faces many challenges besides the current coronavirus pandemic, including hunger, environmental destruction, climate change, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and rising inequality. Global cooperation is necessary to address these challenges and, in some areas, the global community is responding to them. Calls to form a coalition against a particular country, such as from the United States towards China, divert attention from the problems the world is facing and hamper progress in addressing these global challenges. History taught us that the best way to resolve our differences and to move forward is through dialogue and cooperation, not confrontation.
What is the status of Antimicrobial Resistance National Action Plans in the African Region?
The South Centre and ReAct (Action on Antibiotic Resistance) Africa will hold avirtual conference on ‘‘What is the status of Antimicrobial Resistance National Action Plans in the African Region?’, to be held from 1st to 4th of December 2020.
Webinar Series: Powering Africa after Covid-19: Options for Energy
Webinar 1: Carbon Trading: Panacea or Placebo for Africa’s Energy and Climate Policies?
Building on the first webinar series that took place in July 2020, this next series will focus on identifying the various energy and development options that are present for African policymakers, drawing on the policy
and technical expertise of African and international experts and policymakers.
The first webinar “Carbon Trading: Panacea or Placebo for Africa’s Energy and Climate Policies?” will investigate various perspectives about the potential use of carbon pricing and carbon trading mechanisms in Africa as part of its energy, climate and development policy mix. Experts from Africa and around the world will be invited to look into the challenges and opportunities that carbon pricing and carbon trading policies may have for Africa, drawing on previous experiences with respect to REDD+, the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, and other experiences, and on on-going policy discussions with respect to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Invited speakers for this webinar will be from the African Development Bank, African climate change policy implementors and civil society, and European and Chinese experts in their respective carbon trading regimes.
Pathways for leapfrogging to reconcile development and climate change imperatives in Africa
By Smail Khennas and Youba Sokona
A just energy transition toward low carbon emissions pathways is increasingly a priority not only to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change but also for achieving more sustainable economic and social development of the African continent. Fortunately, to optimize its energy mix for development according to sustainability criteria, Africa can take advantage of a rapid energy transition, thanks to its huge and largely untapped renewable energy potential and its abundance of a less polluting fossil fuel, namely, natural gas. Moreover, the fact that most of the infrastructure for energy systems in Africa is not yet built, particularly in sub-Saharan countries, offers these countries a good opportunity for leapfrogging. This Policy Brief explores guiding principles and pathways for a low carbon energy transition, including leapfrogging opportunities, energy system design and social innovation.