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May 2018 Newsletter

Dear Colleagues,

The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) is pleased to update you on several events, recent publications and projects at the Center. Please check our website for more information about these and other activities.


Upcoming Events

Cost and Benefits of Investment Treaties: Practical Considerations for States
States are increasingly re-evaluating their international investment commitments. This paper analyzes the costs and benefits of investment treaties, encouraging states to review the continued utility of their respective investment regimes. It discusses evidence of benefits from investment treaties in the form of increased inward investment, increased outward investment, and depoliticization of investment disputes against evidence of the costs of investment treaties, including: litigation, liability, reputational cost, reduced policy space, distorted power dynamics, reduced role for domestic law-making, and uncertainty in the law.
Clearing the Path: Withdrawal of Consent and Termination as Next Steps for Reforming International Investment Law
In light of growing awareness of and discontent with investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and substantive investment treaty standards, some states are looking to revise their investment policies. While reform processes are underway at various fora, barriers to meaningful and timely reform leave the schedule and sufficiency of reforms unclear. CCSI has thus highlighted a series of actions that states can take to insulate themselves from potentially costly arbitration. In this policy paper, CCSI explores two options: (1) a joint instrument on withdrawal of consent to arbitrate; and/or (2) a joint instrument on termination. The paper examines how both options could be implemented, and makes the case for putting a pause on ISDS. The key points from the paper are summarized in this blog post, and a short article for Investment Treaty News.

PPPs and ISDS: A Risky Combination

Investment in infrastructure, as a general matter, is a prerequisite to sustainable development. While governments were traditionally viewed as playing a legitimate and indispensable role in leading the provision of public infrastructure and services, recent years have seen a distinct and increasing turn toward public private partnerships (PPPs) as a way of structuring public infrastructure investments. This blog post considers the ways in which international law can have important implications for how infrastructure-related PPPs that feature foreign investment, either directly as the PPP contract counterparty and/or as direct or indirect shareholders in those entities, are governed, or, more specifically, the extent to which the host government can act to ensure that the PPP is meeting public needs and priorities. This blog builds on earlier work by CCSI, including this paper that considers the impact of investment treaties on governance of private investment in infrastructure.

Upcoming Events

Save the Date! September 27-28, 2018 8:30-5:30: 13th Annual Columbia International Investor Conference (CIIC)
This year’s CIIC, which will be held on September 27-28, is on Multinationals in the Age of Sustainable Development: New Thinking on the Role of International Investment Agreements. The conference, taking place alongside the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, will build on a multi-year effort to identify guiding principles and practical approaches for aligning international investment treaties with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additional information will be posted shortly here.

Past Events

March 24, 2018: Harvard International Arbitration Conference, and April 6, 2018: American Society of International Law Annual Conference

In late March and early April, CCSI Director Lisa Sachs spoke at the Harvard International Arbitration Conference and the American Society of International Law’s Annual Conference. At both events, Lisa commented on recent ISDS reform proposals, such as the creation of an International Investment Court, urging states to evaluate both current commitments and prospective reforms against the core objectives of the system.

April 18, 2018: ABA Section of International Law 2018 Annual Conference
CCSI Legal Researcher Jesse Coleman spoke on a panel at the ABA Section of International Law’s 2018 Annual Conference in New York. The panel explored whether and how human rights issues should be considered and addressed in investor-state arbitration. Jesse’s remarks highlighted CCSI’s work at the nexus of investment and human rights.

April 20, 2018: Webinar - Her Land Her Story
CCSI, together with the Land Portal Foundation, the Cadasta Foundation and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s Thematic Network on Good Governance of Extractive and Land Resources, co-hosted a webinar to highlight the critical links between securing women’s land rights and promoting sustainable development. The webinar featured selected stories from the Her Land Her Story campaign. A full recording of the webinar, along with the slides used by speakers, is available on CCSI’s website.

April 23, 2018: Stakeholder Session on UNCITRAL ISDS Reform Process
CCSI, together with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), co-hosted a session for interested stakeholders to present their views on issues discussed during the UNCITRAL Working Group III Meetings that took place in New York last month. Representatives from civil society, academia, the private sector, international organizations, and states participating in UNCITRAL discussions joined to present their views and engaged in a robust discussion. Anna Joubin-Bret, Secretary of UNCITRAL and Director of the International Trade Law Division, provided opening remarks.

April 23, 2018: Open Contracting in Land: Finding a Way Forward
CCSI and the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) hosted a discussion on advancing land transparency, with opening comments from CCSI, OCP, and Namati, and moderation by Cadasta. For those who were unable to attend, a video recording is available here.


July 29 – August 9, 2018: Executive Training on Investment Treaties and Arbitration for Government Officials 
We are accepting applications for one of our upcoming executive trainings: Investment Treaties and Arbitration for Government Officials. Through an intensive course, government officials will increase their knowledge of crucial procedural and substantive aspects of investment law, better equipping them to deal with this complex and ever-evolving field with wide ranging implications for myriad areas of law and policy, and direct consequences for host-state liability. More information, including brochures and applications, is available at the link above. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Participants will receive a Statement of Attendance from Columbia University.

Training Alumni Profile: Syl-Brians Kamara, Deputy Director in charge of Field Operations and Extension at the Environment Protection Agency in Sierra Leone
This month’s alumni profile features Syl-Brians Kamara, Deputy Director in charge of Field Operations and Extension at the Environment Protection Agency in Sierra Leone and an alumnus of the 2016 CCSI Executive Training on Sustainable Investments in Agriculture. Syl-Brians’ profile provides insights into the links between agricultural investments and environmental protection, environmental regulations, and engaging local communities on issues related to their environment and livelihoods. Read the full profile here.

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