South Centre Semester Report, 1 January to 30 June 2020
This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st January to 30 June 2020. 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 made.
The Covid-19 Pandemic and Liability under Investment Treaties
By Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah
COVID-19 can increase liability for countries under international investment treaties. Professor M. Sornarajah, Emeritus Professor at the National University of Singapore, discusses in this SouthViews the imminent challenges faced under such treaties by developing countries. The text isbased on his presentation at the South Centre webinar on “Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to Face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures” held on 30th July 2020. The recording of the webinar is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXPswKuywvA
Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures
Developing and least developed countries (LDCs), particularly in Africa, are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNCTAD, foreign direct investment flows will drop drastically up to 40% during 2020-2021. A number of developed and developing countries, including LDCs, have introduced a number of measures aimed at limiting the effects of the pandemic, protecting domestic industries for strategic sectors (e.g. health industry, energy sector, telecommunication, food production, etc.), and safeguarding the real economy, particularly by offering bonds or bailouts for companies and the public in general.
Law firms and risk managers are already advising foreign investors about the possibility of initiating investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) claims against host States on the grounds of the alleged breach of their investors’ rights, based on provisions such as : (i) full protection and security; (ii) fair and equitable treatment; (iii) national treatment and most-favoured nation treatment; and (iv) unlawful expropriation.
Designing an International Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights
By Daniel Uribe and Danish
The present document is substantially based on the background materials prepared by the South Centre (authored by Kinda Mohamadieh, Daniel Uribe, and Danish) for various sessions of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (OEIGWG), established by Resolution 26/9 of the Human Rights Council, held since 2015.
The objective of this document is to provide support material for State delegations and other stakeholders for the negotiation of a binding international instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The document considers a number of issues and technical details that have been addressed during the different sessions of the OEIGWG.
The ISDS Reform Process: The missing development agenda
By Nicolás M. Perrone
The foreign direct investment (FDI) governance agenda is centred on the reform of international investment agreements (IIAs) and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The proliferation of IIAs and ISDS has contributed to narrowing the FDI agenda. A key policy question is whether this fragmented approach remains consistent with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Current FDI discussions point at the need for a holistic approach in this policy area, quite the opposite of a regime primarily aimed to protect foreign investors through treaty standards and international arbitration. The realisation of the SDGs depends on multi-stakeholder partnerships to combat poverty and provide clean water and energy to the world population. Crucially, these partnerships will require more cooperation and coordination than IIAs and ISDS can promote and nurture.
Reforms to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) are being discussed in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III. One possible reform is the development of an appellate mechanism, either as part of the proposed two-tier standing investment court, or as a stand-alone appellate mechanism. From the perspective of developing countries as host states that face possible claims from investors, how appealing is an appellate mechanism in ISDS?
The worldwide problem of the rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious threat to global public health. The loss of efficacy of antibiotics and other antimicrobials affects everyone. Yet the threat is greater in developing countries, due to the higher incidence of infectious diseases. Developing countries will be unequivocally affected by AMR, deteriorating the health of the population, reducing economic growth and exacerbating poverty and inequalities. The blueprint for addressing AMR as a global problem is advanced. Countries are progressing in developing and implementing national action plans and overall the public awareness of AMR is increasing.
However, we are at the tip of the iceberg of response. AMR is not yet a key priority of most governments, and global coordination and resource mobilization to enable all countries to do their part are lagging. The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) in the upcoming 74th UN General Assembly (UNGA) will be reporting on the implementation of the UN resolution on AMR of 2016, including the recommendations of the Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance. The UNGA will also host a High-Level Meeting to build support for advancing Universal Health Coverage (UHC), that is essential for AMR response. Expanding primary health care services, strengthening the health work force, improving infection prevention and control and measures to secure access to essential medicines and others to reduce health inequities can help contain AMR in developing countries. Developing countries need to be actively involved in shaping the global agenda on antimicrobial resistance, including the new global governance mechanisms that are being set up for AMR.
Legitimacy Concerns of the Proposed Multilateral Investment Court: Is Democracy Possible?
By José Manuel Alvarez Zárate
Growing concerns in Europe about international investment regimes and investor-state dispute settlement systems pushed the European Union into pursuing the creation of an investment court system and a multilateral investment court. The European Union (EU) started this reform through the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement, and by direct persuasion of other countries to start negotiations at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. Visible reasons for the change include concerns over the perception of a lack of transparency, coherence, and arbitrators’ partiality, all of which diminish the legitimacy of the multilateral investment court. Other reasons might be laid on the budgetary risks of more than 213 claims against EU countries. To address these legitimacy concerns, the EU wants to replace traditional party-appointed arbitrators with a two-tiered investment tribunal system comprised by a roster of members selected by the state parties on the treaty. This Essay argues that the creation of the multilateral investment court needs to follow democratic principles in order to be legitimate. History has shown us that the EU has abused its power in the past when implementing resolution systems. Foregoing negotiation, comment by member nations, and implementing a tribunal at its own behest has shown this. The EU multilateral investment court proposal has legitimacy deficiencies because the EU has relied on its power to impose its views so far, i.e. its proposal was not previously negotiated multilaterally amongst other member nations. It is thus possible that the appointment of the future judges to this court will likely be subject to the political constraints and veto that the International Court of Justice or World Trade Organization appointments suffer today. This could leave small economies at a disadvantage because they might be subject to permanent, politically biased judges. A superior solution would be to adopt better arbitrator disqualification rules, clear interpretation directives to avoid law creation, and stricter arbitrator qualifications.
Challenges of Investment Treaties on Policy Areas of Concern to Developing Countries
By Kinda Mohamadieh
Country experiences have revealed that international investment agreements (IIAs) could have an adverse policy impact on various policy areas that are generally important for developing countries in relation to the achievement of their development objectives. This policy brief gives an overview of challenges resulting from IIAs to major policy areas of concern to developing countries. These policy areas include industrial policy, tax reform, handling debt crisis, the use of capital controls, intellectual property rights, public-private partnerships, and climate change action in relation to investment in clean technologies.