The secretive and lucrative world of international investment arbitration has enriched a small coterie of multi-billion dollar international firms, which actively promote and even help finance litigations against states and have fought fiercely to prevent changes to an unjust international investment regime.
Between 20 and 21 September 2011, 40 ASEAN campaigners and experts met in Manila to share knowledge and experiences, articulate common strategies and discuss alternatives to the current investment regime.
Bilateral investment treaties (BITs) allow transnational corporations to by-pass domestic courts and sue sovereign states - costing tax payers millions in legal expenses and preventing governments from acting in the best interests of their citizens.
Around the world, citizens have been mobilizing to defend their environment and economic sovereignty from transnational corporations, but there is another threat lurking in the shadows that can ride roughshod over our rights. A video of the Network for Justice in Global Investment in collaboration with the Transnational Institute.
Gus Van Harten discusses specific cases of investor-to-state arbitration to highlight what are the key problems with international investment treaties. How developing countries are being impacted by investment disputes and what the role is of lawyers and experts in promoting a growing international arbitration industry.
Signing international investment treaties, in the hope of attracting foreign investments, has been a central strategy for governments looking to improve economic development. The less known side of this story is that by signing investment treaties, governments are giving away the sovereign right to regulate in the interest of people and the environment. They also expose themselves to the risk of spending millions in law suits that could have been used to serve public needs. It’s time that the dark side of investment is put under the spotlight.
Pietje Vervest is an economic anthropologist. She has specialised in the European Union's trade and investment agenda and in the international investment regime.
At TNI she coordinates the Economic Justice Programme and the Myanmar in Focus Programme, is part of the Coordination Group of the Seattle to Brussels network and is the European anchor of the Asia-Europe People's Forum.