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LETTER: More Than 300 Civil Society Organizations From 73 Countries Urge Fundamental Reform at UNCITRAL’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement Discussions

30 October 2018

Dear UNCITRAL Member States:

As representatives of civil society organizations across the globe, we reiterate our unequivocal opposition to the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime and the far-reaching rights for foreign investors enshrined in trade and investment treaties. ISDS and the investment treaty regime empower one class of interests – multinational corporations and investors – to sue governments outside of domestic court systems for unlimited amounts of compensation, including for the loss of expected future profits. A vast array of domestic laws, court rulings, regulations, and other government actions are subject to such attack, including non-discriminatory policies enacted in order to promote public welfare.

In recent years, this once-obscure feature of the international trade and investment regime has drawn increasing criticism: A growing chorus of government officials from across the political spectrum, small businesses, academics, jurists, civil society organizations and trade unions around the world have publicly proclaimed opposition to ISDS and urged governments to exit from the regime. As the number of ISDS cases filed each year has exploded, and corporations have won billions in attacks on a stunning array of policies that promote the general welfare, some governments have begun to terminate treaties that include ISDS and reject new trade and investment agreements that grant foreign investors excessive rights and access to ISDS.

In the context of this deserved global backlash against ISDS, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) – a UN body that has historically dealt with international commercial issues and is heavily dominated by the arbitration industry – launched Working Group III to “identify and consider concerns regarding ISDS; consider whether reform was desirable in light of any identified concerns; and, if the Working Group were to conclude that reform was desirable, develop any relevant solutions to be recommended to the Commission.” We commend the UNCITRAL member governments for recognizing that the current ISDS regime is politically and economically untenable.

After two meetings of the UNCITRAL Working Group III process, however, it has become clear that the scope of the discussion falls far short of addressing the fundamental flaws of an international investment regime that empowers one already-powerful class of society – foreign investors – to challenge public interest laws outside domestic courts. While we agree with many of the criticisms raised by governments in the UNCITRAL discussions related to the existing ISDS system’s procedural flaws – including the high costs to governments and lack of transparency of the proceedings, the lack of coherence of awards, the inability to review the merits of even manifestly flawed awards, the highly problematic appointment process, the lack of ethical requirements of arbitrators, and the perverse effects of third-party funding of arbitration – these represent only a small subset of the many flaws and dangers of ISDS and the investment treaty regime.

Unless this regime is considered in its entirety, including whether it achieves its purported aims, and unless the far-reaching substantive corporate rights in the underlying treaties are eliminated, the UNCITRAL Working Group III process will not result in any meaningful change.

We specifically reject attempts by the European Union to push a “multilateral investment court” project as a “solution” in the UNCITRAL Working Group III process. This EU proposal would not only fail to address most of the fundamental flaws of ISDS and the current investment treaty regime, but seems designed to keep many of ISDS’s most damaging features (and flaws) intact. The EU’s proposed procedural changes would not limit the extraordinary substantive rights granted solely to foreign investors that extend beyond relevant domestic laws. And, most fundamentally, the EU proposal would continue to allow foreign investors to challenge non-discriminatory policies, including those that safeguard health, preserve the environment, and promote labour standards, outside countries’ domestic courts. Such a “multilateral investment court” would effectively lock in the investment treaty regime at a time when governments are wisely considering withdrawing from it altogether.

Instead of focusing on procedural tweaks on the margins of the ISDS system, governments in UNCITRAL should put their efforts into discussing on how to move away from the current investment treaty system altogether. Thus, a more constructive focus for UNCITRAL would be to concentrate on the structural problems of the investment treaty regime and to facilitate a discussion on termination or wholesale replacement of existing agreements without countries being bound to the extended “survival” clauses.

We call on our governments to refrain from signing any new trade and investment pacts that include these extraordinary rights for foreign investors, to terminate existing ISDS-enforced treaties, and to use the UNCITRAL process to address the fundamental problems of the current system. This means that governments must reject the EU’s “multilateral investment court” proposal, establishment of an appellate mechanism, or any other attempts to institutionalise or further entrench the investment arbitration regime.

Sincerely,

Global Organizations:

Public Services International

International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

Friends of the Earth International

Greenpeace International

International Transport Workers’ Federation

ActionAid

Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)

SumOfUs

Transnational Institute (TNI)

Society for International Development (SID)

The Grail International Network for Global Justice Overcoming Poverty

International Accountability Project

CIDSE

GRAIN

Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network

People's Health Movement

Bilaterals.org

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Compassion in World Farming

Health GAP (Global Access Project)


Regional Organizations:


Arab NGO Network for Development

Arab Region

Focus on the Global South

Asia

Building and Wood-Workers' Internat’l Asia-Pacific Regional Office

Asia-Pacific

Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda

East Africa

ClientEarth

Europe

Corporate Europe Observatory

Europe

Eurogroup for Animals

Europe

European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)

Europe

Friends of the Earth Europe

Europe

Global Social Justice

Europe

Transport & Environment

Europe

We Move Europe (WeMove.EU)

Europe

Women In Development Europe+ (WIDE+)

Europe

Seattle to Brussels Network

Europe

Compassion in World Farming

Europe

ATALC- Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y Caribe

Latin America and Caribbean

ALTSEAN-Burma

Southeast Asia

Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ)

The Americas


Country and Local Organizations:


Acción por la Biodiversidad

Argentina

Amigos de la Tierra Argentina

Argentina

Asamblea Argentina Mejor sin TLC

Argentina

ATTAC Argentina

Argentina

CANPo (Corriente Agraria Nacional y Popular)

Argentina

Confederación de Trabajadores Municipales (CTM)

Argentina

CTA Autónoma Capital Regional Centro

Argentina

Diálogo 2000

Argentina

ECOS de Saladillo

Argentina

Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos

Argentina

Observatorio de la Riqueza Padre Arrospe

Argentina

Отраслевой Республиканский Союз профессиональных организаций работников здравоохранения Армении

Armenia

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

Australia

Australian Council of Trade Unions

Australia

Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture

Australia

Australian Services Union

Australia

AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network)

Australia

Community and Public Sector Union State Public Services Federation

Australia

Conservation Council of South Australia

Australia

Environment East Gippsland Inc

Australia

Friends of the Earth Australia

Australia

Gene Ethics

Australia

GM Free Margaret River

Australia

Householders' Options to Protect the Environment (HOPE) Inc.

Australia

Jubilee Australia Research Centre

Australia

MADGE Australia

Australia

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre

Australia

National Toxics Network

Australia

Organic Agriculture Association

Australia

Pesticide Action Group of Western Australia

Australia

Soil & Health Inc NZ

Australia

Sustainable Agriculture & Communities Alliance

Australia

#aufstehn

Austria

Attac Austria

Austria

Evangelischer Arbeitskreis für Weltmission Salzburg (EAWM Sazburg)

Austria

Grüne Bildungswerkstatt NÖ

Austria

Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika (IGLA)

Austria

Künstlerhaus, Assoziation of Austrian Artists

Austria

NeSoVe / Network Social Responsibility

Austria

ÖBV-Via Campesina Austria

Austria

Südwind

Austria

transform!at

Austria

younion _ Die Daseinsgewerkschaft

Austria

Plattform Anders Handeln

Austria

BPUBJSKU

Bangladesh

Alliance nationale des Mutualités chrétiennes

Belgium

CGSP/ ALR

Belgium

CGSP/Parastataux

Belgium

CNCD-11.11.11

Belgium

Commission Justice et Paix

Belgium

Entraide et Fraternité

Belgium

The Democracy Center

Bolivia

Centar za životnu sredinu/ Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Central Única dos Trabalhadores - Amapá

Brazil

CONDSEF/FENADSEF

Brazil

Confederacion Nacional de Los Trabajadores en la Seguridad Social de La Central ùnica de los Trabajadores

Brazil

Contracs-CUT

Brazil

Federação dos Sindicatos dos Servidores Públicos no Estado de São (FESSP-ESP)

Brazil

Federação dos Trabalhadores Municipais de Santa Catarina

Brazil

Federação dos Trabs da Adm e do Serviço Publico Municipal no Estado de São Paulo

Brazil

Instituto EQUIT

Brazil

Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil

Brazil

REBRIP - Brazilian Network for People's Integration

Brazil

Sindicato dos Enfermeiros do Estado de São Paulo

Brazil

SINDSAÚDE/SP

Brazil

Sindsep-SP - Sindicato dos Trabalhadores na Administração Pública e Autarquias do Municipio de Sao Paulo

Brazil

SINPSI-Sindicato dos Psicólogos de São Paulo

Brazil

FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS _ HEALTH SERVICES _ CITUB

Bulgaria

Za Zemiata, Friends of the Earth Bulgaria

Bulgaria

EBENEZER

Burundi

Social Action for Community and Development

Cambodia

Fédération des Syndicats des Employés de la Santé, Pharmacies et Assimilés du Cameroun (FSESPAC)

Cameroon

Association québécoise pour la taxation des transactions financières et pour l'action citoyenne (ATTAC-Québec)

Canada (Québec)

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Canada

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canada

Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD)

Canada

Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ)

Canada (Québec)

Common Frontiers

Canada

Council of Canadians

Canada

Council of Canadians Northumberland Chapter trade group

Canada

Felician Sisters

Canada

Inter Pares

Canada

MiningWatch Canada

Canada

National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

Canada

OpenMedia

Canada

Public Service Alliance of Canada

Canada

Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale

Canada (Québec)

Centro Ecuménico Diego de Medellín

Chile

Comunidad Ecuménica Martin Luther King

Chile

ONG  WE KIMUN

Chile

Plataforma Chile Mejor sin TLC

Chile

CENSAT

Colombia

Friends of the Earth Cyprus

Cyprus

NaZemi

Czech Republic

Action Paysanne Contre la Faim

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Colombia Solidaritet

Denmark

KULU - Women and Development (KULU)

Denmark

NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark

Denmark

Transform!Danmark

Denmark

APROGLOBO

Dominican Republic

Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Enfermería, SINATRAE

Dominican Republic

Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

Egypt

CESTA Amigos de la Tierra

El Salvador

New Wind Association

Finland

Amis de la Terre

France

CCFD-Terre Solidaire

France

Institut Veblen

France

Sherpa

France

Public Service, Municipal and Bank Workers Trade Union

Georgia

BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany)

Germany

Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika e.V.

Germany

Mehr Demokratie e.V.

Germany

Netzwerk Gerechter Welthandel

Germany

PowerShift e.V.

Germany

Stiftung Asienhaus

Germany

ver.di

Germany

WEED - World Economy, Ecology & Development

Germany

Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association

Ghana

 Φίλοι της Φυσης / Naturefriends

Greece

Internet Society Haiti Chapter

Haiti

Foro Dakar Honduras

Honduras

Diverziti Association

Hungary

Fenntarthatóság Felé Egyesület / Towards Sustainability Association

Hungary

Magyar Természetvédők Szövetsége / Friends of the Earth Hungary

Hungary

Védegylet Egyesület

Hungary

Initiative for Health & Equity in Society

India

IT for Change

India

LOCOST

India

Madhyam

India

Rajasthan Vidhyut Prasaran Mazdoor Congres (INTUC)

India

Society for Rural Education and Development

India

Indonesia for Global Justice

Indonesia

WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia

Indonesia

Action from Ireland (Afri)

Ireland

Connect trade union

Ireland

Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC)

Ireland

People's Movement

Ireland

Social Justice Ireland

Ireland

Stop CETA Alliance Ireland

Ireland

zero waste alliance ireland

Ireland

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association

Ireland

Fairwatch

Italy

All-Japan farmers' association

Japan

Food Policy Center Vision21

Japan

Forum for Peace,Human Rights and Environment

Japan

Mamademo

Japan

National Alliance of CSO's, Trade Unions, Farmer's Unions and Cooperatives for Joint Action Opposing to EPAs Modeled after TPP

Japan

Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC)

Japan

People's Action against TPP

Japan

Jamaa Resource Initiatives

Kenya

Kenya Small Farmers Forum (KESFF)

Kenya

Natural Resources Alliance of Kenya

Kenya

The Inter-Religious Council Of Kenya (IRCK)

Kenya

The Kenya National Union of Nurses

Kenya

Union of Kenya Civil Servants

Kenya

Policy Analysis and Research Institute of Lesotho (PARIL)

Lesotho

Rural women's assembly

Lesotho

National Health Workers' Union of Liberia (NAHWUL)

Liberia

Trade union of defence and security - SOB

Macedonia

Consumers' Association of Penang

Malaysia

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)

Malaysia

Federation des syndicats du secteur publis du Mali

Mali

Reseau Mauritanien pour l'Action Sociale RMAS

Mauritania

Rodrigues Government Employees Association

Mauritius

Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales (ANAA)

Mexico

Central de Organizaciones Campesinas y Populares

Mexico

Centro de Derechos Humanos "Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P.", A.C.

Mexico

Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano

Mexico

Centro de Promoción y Educación Profesional Vasco de Quiroga 

Mexico

Otros Mundos-Amigos de la Tierra Mexico

Mexico

Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER)

Mexico

Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC)

Mexico

Centre for Human Rights and Development

Mongolia

Environmental and Human Health Aoteroaoa

New Zealand

Fancrest Estate

New Zealand

Gaia Trees

New Zealand

GE Free NZ Tai Tokerau

New Zealand

Hauraki Flooring Ltd.

New Zealand

It’s Our Future

New Zealand

Murphy Pittman Enterprises

New Zealand

New Plymouth TPPA Action Group

New Zealand

New Zealand Public Service Association Te Pukenga Here Tikanga Mahi

New Zealand

Social Credit

New Zealand

Solutions Consultancy Ltd

New Zealand

The Awareness Party

New Zealand

TPP Free Wellington

New Zealand

NZ Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi

New Zealand

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA)

New Zealand (Aotearoa)

Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy (CODWA)

Nigeria

Attac Norge

Norway

Federación Nacional de Asociaciones y Organizaciones de Empleados Públicos (FENASEP)

Panama

Dr Haider Abdel Shafi center for Culture & Development

Palestine

General Union of Health Service Workers (GUHSW)

Palestine

Social & Economic Policies Monitor (Al Marsad)

Palestine

Palestinian non governmental organizations network

Palestine

Red Peruana por una Globalización con Equidad (RedGE)

Peru

Alliance of Filipino Workers

Philippines

Freedom from Debt Coalition

Philippines

Indigenous Peoples International Centre for Policy Research and Education

Philippines

Trade Justice Pilipinas

Philippines

Alyansa Tigil Mina

Philippines

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa

Philippines

Institute of Global Responsibility

Poland

TROCA- Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo

Portugal

ZERO - Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System

Portugal

Declic

Romania

MiningWatch

Romania

Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement

Senegal

Syndicat Autonome des Travailleurs de la Sénégalaise des Eaux

Senegal

Syndicat National des Personnels Civils des Armées et Services de Sécurité Publics Privés et Assimilés (SYNPAS)

Senegal

Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers NEZAVISNOST

Serbia

NPSWU

South Africa

South African Municipal Workers' Union

South Africa

Knowledge Commune

South Korea

Korean Pharmacists for Democratic Society

South Korea

MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society International Trade Committee

South Korea

Alternativa3

Spain

Asociación Dignitat i Solidaritat - ADIS

Spain (Majorca)

ATTAC ESPAÑA

Spain

CCOO de Construcción y Servicios

Spain

CEDSALA

Spain (Pais Valencià)

Confederación Intersindical

Spain

Coordinadora Ecologista de Asturias

Spain (Asturias)

Coordinadora Estatal de Comercio Justo

Spain

Debt Observatory in Globalisation

Spain

ECOAR)))  GLOBAL

Spain

Ecologistas en Acción

Spain

ELA (Euskal Sindikatua)

Spain (Basque Country)

ENTREPUEBLOS/ENTREPOBLES/ENTREPOBOS/HERRIARTE

Spain

Eticambio

Spain

Federación de Sanidad y Sectores Sociosanitarios (FSS-CCOO)

Spain

FeSP-UGT

Spain

Herver Trading SL

Spain

Ingeniería Sin Fronteras / Engineering Without Borders

Spain

Intersindical Valenciana

Spain (País València)

Izquierda Unida

Spain

La Tenda De Tot El Món

Spain

Mujeres de Negro contra la guerra

Spain (Andalucia)

OMAL - Paz con Dignidad

Spain (Estado Español)

Ong AFRICANDO

Spain (Gran Canaria)

Pica Pica HackLab

Spain (Asturias)

Plataforma “Asturias No a los Tratados de Libre Comercio”

Spain (Asturias)

Plataforma Auditoria Ciudadana de la Deuda _Sevilla

Spain (Andalucia)

Plataforma Cantabria por lo Público y Contra los Recortes

Spain (Cantabria)

Gender Studies Centre

Sudan

Friends of the Earth Sweden / Jordens Vänner

Sweden

Association for Proper Internet Governance

Switzerland

Mazingira Network - Tanzania (MANET)

Tanzania

Both ENDS

The Netherlands

FNV

The Netherlands

Milieudefensie

The Netherlands

Ondernemers van Nu

The Netherlands

Platform Aarde Boer Consument

The Netherlands

Platform Duurzame en Solidaire Economie

The Netherlands

SOMO

The Netherlands

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Dutch section

The Netherlands

Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux (FTDES)

Tunisia

Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)

Uganda

Community resources devt initiative kibaale

Uganda

The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers, FIDA Uganda

Uganda

Action Aid Uganda

Uganda

Fresh Eyes - People to People Travel cic

United Kingdom

Friends of the Earth EWNI

United Kingdom

Global Justice Now

United Kingdom

GMB Trade Union

United Kingdom

Traidcraft Exchange

United Kingdom

UNISON

United Kingdom

Unite the Union

United Kingdom

War on Want

United Kingdom

Action on Smoking and Health

United States of America

AFL-CIO

United States of America

Agricultural Missions Inc

United States of America

Alliance for Global Justice

United States of America

Amazon Watch

United States of America

Center for Constitutional Rights

United States of America

Center for International Environmental Law

United States of America

Citizens Trade Campaign

United States of America

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

United States of America

Consumer Federation of America

United States of America

Earthworks

United States of America

Franciscan Action Network

United States of America

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

United States of America

Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project

United States of America

International Campaign for the Rohingya

United States of America

International Center for Technology Assessment

United States of America

International Corporate Accountability Roundtable

United States of America

Knowledge Ecology International

United States of America

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

United States of America

People Demanding Action

United States of America

Public Citizen

United States of America

Sierra Club

United States of America

The Jus Semper Global Alliance

United States of America

REDES-Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay

Uruguay

Vanuatu National Workers Union

Vanuatu



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