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.
This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st January to 30 June 2021. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications of the outcomes of internal policy-oriented research and external contributions made as a result of cooperation with the Centre.
The Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas: what is next?
By Luis Fernando Rosales Lozada
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) was adopted in December 2018. However, its application seems challenging. The South Centre organized a virtual meeting to discuss the implementation of the UNDROP on 4th June 2021, aiming to promote a debate about future actions to move forward the implementation of the UNDROP. The meeting provided an opportunity to listen to the views of government representatives, peasants’ associations, civil society organizations and academia. During the meeting, different questions were discussed such as how the current health and social crisis, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has impacted the situation of peasants, the role of the UNDROP in promoting and protecting peasants’ rights, the latest developments in the realization of the rights of peasants under the UNDROP and what steps are needed to promote its implementation.
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.
Investment Policy Options for Facing COVID-19 Related ISDS Claims
By Daniel Uribe and Danish
Developing and least developed countries have undertaken a number of measures to fight against the multidimensional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Such measures and those that may be adopted in the context of the recovery efforts are, however, susceptible to challenges by foreign investors using investor-State dispute settlement mechanisms.
This policy brief first considers the kinds of measures States have adopted to limit the spread of COVID-19, protect their strategic sectors and promote economic recovery, including through foreign investment aftercare and retention. It then addresses how the investor-State dispute settlement system (ISDS) has been used by investors in times of crises, based on the analysis of the awards in several cases brought against both developed and developing countries.
Against this backdrop, the brief elaborates on the different options and initiatives States can take for preventing ISDS claims at the national, bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. It concludes with some policy advice for developing and least developed countries to face possible COVID-19 related ISDS claims in the future.
Submission to the Special Session of the General Assembly on Challenges and Measures to Prevent and Combat Corruption and Strengthen International Cooperation
South Centre, 28 May 2021
The South Centre submission to UNGASS2021 highlights the need for strong inter-institutional and cross-sectorial coordination and more effective and open government tools. The UNGASS2021 should support the implementation of the FACTI Panel recommendations as means to enhance States’ effort to combat corruption.
The Proposed Pandemic Treaty and the Challenge of the South for a Robust Diplomacy
By Obijiofor Aginam
The motivation for a pandemic treaty is infallible because of the ‘globalization of public health’ in a rapidly evolving interdependence of nations, societies, and peoples. Notwithstanding the lofty purposes of the proposed pandemic treaty as a tool for effective cooperation by member-states of the WHO to address emerging and re-emerging disease pandemics in an inter-dependent world, the proposal nonetheless raises some structural and procedural conundrums for the Global South. The negotiation of a pandemic treaty should, as a matter of necessity, take into account the asymmetries of World Health Organization member-states and the interests of the Global South.
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.
Strengthening United Nations Action in the Field of Human Rights through the Promotion of International Cooperation
COVID-19 could be an opportunity for effective international cooperation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, taking Human Rights as its fundamental pillar, the South Centre notes in its submission for the United Nations Secretary-General’s report.
This contribution was sent to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) responding to its invitation, with the objective of providing inputs to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s report on strengthening of UN action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation based on the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity, to be presented to the General Assembly at its seventy-sixth session.