Investment and Sustainable Development: A Guide to the Use and Potential of IIAs

Investment and Sustainable Development: A Guide to the Use and Potential of International Investment Agreements

IISD
18 March 2004

The International Institute for Sustainable Development has just released a new book: Investment and Sustainable Development: A Guide to the Use and Potential of International Investment Agreements. At under 60 pages, and written in a style accessible to experts and non-experts alike, this book is the definitive overview of the problems with current agreements. But it goes further, asking what an international investment agreement would look like if it were aimed at the outset at achieving sustainable development.

Appended below is a short description of the book. It can be viewed, ordered, or downloaded at the following address: http://www.iisd.org/investment.


Investment and Sustainable Development: A Guide to the Use and Potential of International Investment Agreements

This book looks at the role international investment agreements have, and might have, in fostering sustainable development. Such an analysis is long overdue; it is becoming ever more widely accepted that the proper goal in attracting investment is quality, rather than quantity. In the end if investment does not increase well-being on a sustainable basis, it is not worth having, much less chasing.

How do the current agreements measure up in such a framework? Not well. There are currently over 2,000 bilateral investment treaties in force. There is also a growing number of investment agreements folded into broader trade agreements, NAFTA’s Chapter 11 being the best known. All suffer from three critical faults.

- First, the investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms found in these agreements are — to varying degrees — untransparent, unaccountable and illegitimate. This is particularly worrying when the cases deal with matters of public policy, such as states’ right to regulate and tax in the public interest.

- Second, the rules contained in the agreements are being argued and interpreted in ways that tip the balance toward investors’ rights, and away from non-commercial policy objectives such as environment and public health.

- Third, the agreements do nothing to ensure the quality of the investment — a problem particularly in those states where the domestic institutions for doing so are weak.

Grounded in IISD’s extensive body of work on investment and sustainable development, this book explores these problems, and explores the ways in which a new breed of agreements might address them.

http://www.iisd.org/investment

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