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Human rights must be integrated into international investment agreements

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Governments should place human rights at the core of international economic agreements, by integrating human rights protections into international investment and trade agreements and to ensure that these agreements do not impair governments’ abilities to respect, protect and fulfill their human rights obligations, saying human rights, environmental and development organisations in a joint statement.

International investment can be a powerful engine for economic development and, potentially, to help fulfill a wide range of economic and social rights. But the current international investment system gives rights to multinational corporations while doing nothing to protect the rights of people affected by foreign investment to access effective remedy. It does not sufficiently protect governments’ space to pursue sustainable development policies from investors’ challenges.

Three core requirements

To avoid entering into agreements that would compromise governments’ human rights obligations with regard to international investment international trade agreements should meet these three core requirements:

  1. Independent human rights impact and/or risk assessments should be carried out and published, with public participation, on all prospective international investment agreements, to identify, understand, assess, and address their full effects on human rights, with a particular focus on vulnerable and marginalized groups.
  2. Any protections that are provided for investors should not impede governments’ policy space to legislate, regulate and reach court decisions to protect and fulfill human rights, including:
    – right to health including access to essential medicines
    – right to a safe and healthy environment
    – rights to development and to an adequate standard of living
    – rights to water, sanitation and food
    – indigenous peoples’ rights
    – core labour rights
  3. Investment agreements should include effective protections for human rights, the environment and labour rights. These protections should include effective remedies for people whose rights are harmed by investors or their investments, including the ability of victims to bring claims for these harms in the courts of the home States of the investors.

Proposed international trade agreements

The analyses of experts, such as Alfred de Zayas, the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, lead to the conclusion that the following proposed international trade agreements, in their current forms, do not meet these three core requirements:

They raise serious concerns about how they might enable companies to undermine human rights, and they create no enforceable human rights standards for foreign investments. With the joint statement SOMO urge decision-makers in the EU and in the countries concerned to oppose these proposed agreements in their current form.

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