More than 300 civil society organizations from 73 countries urge fundamental reform at UNCITRAL’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement discussions
Photo: CIEL

More than 300 civil society organizations from 73 countries urge fundamental reform at UNCITRAL’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement discussions

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.


Global Organizations:
1. Public Services International
2. International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
3. Friends of the Earth International
4. Greenpeace International
5. International Transport Workers’ Federation
6. ActionAid
7. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
8. SumOfUs
9. Transnational Institute (TNI)
10. Society for International Development (SID)
11. The Grail International Network for Global Justice Overcoming Poverty
12. International Accountability Project
15. Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network
16. People’s Health Movement
18. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
19. Compassion in World Farming
20. Health GAP (Global Access Project)

Regional Organizations:
21. Arab NGO Network for Development (Arab Region)
22. Focus on the Global (South Asia)
23. Building and Wood-Workers’ Internat’l Asia-Pacific Regional Office (Asia-Pacific)
24. Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda (East Africa)
25. ClientEarth (Europe)
26. Corporate Europe Observatory (Europe)
27. Eurogroup for Animals (Europe)
28. European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) (Europe)
29. Friends of the Earth Europe (Europe)
30. Global Social Justice (Europe)
31. Transport & Environment (Europe)
32. We Move Europe (WeMove.EU) (Europe)
33. Women In Development Europe+ (WIDE+) (Europe)
34. Seattle to Brussels Network (Europe)
35. Compassion in World Farming (Europe)
36. ATALC- Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y Caribe (Latin America and Caribbean)
37. ALTSEAN-Burma (Southeast Asia)
38. Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ) (The Americas)

Country and Local Organizations:

39. Acción por la Biodiversidad
40. Amigos de la Tierra Argentina
41. Asamblea Argentina Mejor sin TLC
42. ATTAC Argentina
43. CANPo (Corriente Agraria Nacional y Popular)
44. Confederación de Trabajadores Municipales (CTM)
45. CTA Autónoma Capital Regional Centro
46. Diálogo 2000
47. ECOS de Saladillo
48. Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos
49. Observatorio de la Riqueza Padre Arrospe

50. Отраслевой Республиканский Союз профессиональных организаций работников здравоохранения Армении

51. Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
52. Australian Council of Trade Unions
53. Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture
54. Australian Services Union
55. AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network)
56. Community and Public Sector Union State Public Services Federation
57. Conservation Council of South
58. Environment East Gippsland Inc
59. Friends of the Earth
60. Gene Ethics
61. GM Free Margaret River
62. Householders’ Options to Protect the Environment (HOPE) Inc.
63. Jubilee Australia Research Centre
64. MADGE Australia
65. Margaret River Regional Environment Centre
66. National Toxics Network
67. Organic Agriculture Association
68. Pesticide Action Group of Western Australia
69. Soil & Health Inc NZ
70. Sustainable Agriculture & Communities Alliance

71. #aufstehn
72. Attac Austria
73. Evangelischer Arbeitskreis für Weltmission Salzburg (EAWM Sazburg)
74. Grüne Bildungswerkstatt NÖ
75. Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika (IGLA)
76. Künstlerhaus, Assoziation of Austrian Artists
77. NeSoVe / Network Social Responsibility
78. ÖBV-Via Campesina Austria
79. Südwind
80. transform!at
81. younion _ Die Daseinsgewerkschaft
82. Plattform Anders Handeln


84. Alliance nationale des Mutualités chrétiennes
86. CGSP/Parastataux
87. CNCD-11.11.11
88. Commission Justice et Paix
89. Entraide et Fraternité

90. The Democracy Center

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

92. Central Única dos Trabalhadores - Amapá
94. Confederacion Nacional de Los Trabajadores en la Seguridad Social de La Central ùnica de los Trabajadores
95. Contracs-CUT
96. Federação dos Sindicatos dos Servidores Públicos no Estado de São (FESSP-ESP)
97. Federação dos Trabalhadores Municipais de Santa Catarina
98. Federação dos Trabs da Adm e do Serviço Publico Municipal no Estado de São Paulo
99. Instituto EQUIT
100. Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil
101. REBRIP - Brazilian Network for People’s Integration
102. Sindicato dos Enfermeiros do Estado de São Paulo
104. Sindsep-SP - Sindicato dos Trabalhadores na Administração Pública e Autarquias do Municipio de Sao Paulo
105. SINPSI-Sindicato dos Psicólogos de São Paulo

107. Za Zemiata, Friends of the Earth Bulgaria


109. Social Action for Community and Development

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

111. Association québécoise pour la taxation des transactions financières et pour l’action citoyenne (ATTAC-Québec)
112. Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
113. Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
114. Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD)
115. Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ)
116. Common Frontiers
117. Council of Canadians
118. Council of Canadians Northumberland Chapter trade group
119. Felician Sisters
120. Inter Pares
121. MiningWatch Canada
122. National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
123. OpenMedia
124. Public Service Alliance of Canada
125. Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale

126. Centro Ecuménico Diego de Medellín
127. Comunidad Ecuménica Martin Luther King
129. Plataforma Chile Mejor sin TLC

130. CENSAT Colombia

131. Friends of the Earth Cyprus

Czech Republic
132. NaZemi

Democratic Republic of the Congo
133. Action Paysanne Contre la Faim
134. Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement

135. Colombia Solidaritet
136. KULU - Women and Development (KULU)
137. NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark
138. Transform!Danmark

Dominican Republic
140. Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Enfermería, SINATRAE

141. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

El Salvador
142. CESTA Amigos de la Tierra El Salvador

143. New Wind Association

144. Amis de la Terre
145. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
146. Institut Veblen
147. Sherpa

148. Public Service, Municipal and Bank Workers Trade Union

149. BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany)
150. Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika e.V.
151. Mehr Demokratie e.V.
152. Netzwerk Gerechter Welthandel
153. PowerShift e.V.
154. Stiftung Asienhaus
155. ver.di
156. WEED - World Economy, Ecology & Development

157. Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association

158. Φίλοι της Φυσης / Naturefriends

159. Internet Society Haiti Chapter

160. Foro Dakar Honduras

161. Diverziti Association
162. Fenntarthatóság Felé Egyesület / Towards Sustainability Association
163. Magyar Természetvédők Szövetsége / Friends of the Earth Hungary
164. Védegylet Egyesület

165. Initiative for Health & Equity in Society
166. IT for Change
168. Madhyam
169. Rajasthan Vidhyut Prasaran Mazdoor Congres (INTUC)
170. Society for Rural Education and Development

171. Indonesia for Global Justice
172. WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia

173. Action from Ireland (Afri)
174. Connect trade union
175. Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC)
176. People’s Movement
177. Social Justice Ireland
178. Stop CETA Alliance Ireland
179. zero waste alliance ireland
180. Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association

181. Fairwatch Italy

182. All-Japan farmers’ association
183. Food Policy Center Vision21
184. Forum for Peace,Human Rights and Environment
185. Mamademo
186. National Alliance of CSO’s, Trade Unions, Farmer’s Unions and Cooperatives for Joint Action Opposing to EPAs Modeled after TPP
187. Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC)
188. People’s Action against TPP

189. Jamaa Resource Initiatives
190. Kenya Small Farmers Forum (KESFF)
191. Natural Resources Alliance of Kenya
192. The Inter-Religious Council Of Kenya (IRCK)
193. The Kenya National Union of Nurses
194. Union of Kenya Civil Servants

195. Policy Analysis and Research Institute of Lesotho (PARIL)
196. Rural women’s assembly

197. National Health Workers’ Union of Liberia (NAHWUL)

198. Trade union of defence and security - SOB

199. Consumers’ Association of Penang
200. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)

201. Federation des syndicats du secteur publis du Mali

202. Reseau Mauritanien pour l’Action Sociale RMAS

203. Rodrigues Government Employees Association

204. Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales (ANAA)
205. Central de Organizaciones Campesinas y Populares
206. Centro de Derechos Humanos "Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P.", A.C.
207. Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano
208. Centro de Promoción y Educación Profesional Vasco de Quiroga
209. Otros Mundos-Amigos de la Tierra Mexico
210. Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación
211. Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC)

212. Centre for Human Rights and Development

New Zealand
213. Environmental and Human Health Aoteroaoa
214. Fancrest Estate
215. Gaia Trees
216. GE Free NZ Tai Tokerau
217. Hauraki Flooring Ltd.
218. It’s Our Future
219. Murphy Pittman Enterprises
220. New Plymouth TPPA Action Group
221. New Zealand Public Service
223. Solutions Consultancy Ltd
224. The Awareness Party
225. TPP Free Wellington
226. NZ Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi
227. Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA)

228. Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy (CODWA)

229. Attac Norge

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

231. Dr Haider Abdel Shafi center for Culture & Development
232. General Union of Health Service Workers (GUHSW)
233. Social & Economic Policies Monitor (Al Marsad)
234. Palestinian non governmental organizations network

235. Red Peruana por una Globalización con Equidad (RedGE)

236. Alliance of Filipino Workers
237. Freedom from Debt Coalition
238. Indigenous Peoples International Centre for Policy Research and Education
239. Trade Justice Pilipinas
240. Alyansa Tigil Mina
241. Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa

242. Institute of Global Responsibility

243. TROCA-Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo
244. ZERO - Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System

245. Declic
246. MiningWatch

247. Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement
248. Syndicat Autonome des Travailleurs de la Sénégalaise des Eaux
249. Syndicat National des Personnels Civils des Armées et Services de Sécurité
Publics Privés et Assimilés (SYNPAS)

250. Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers NEZAVISNOST

South Africa
251. NPSWU
252. South African Municipal Workers’ Union

South Korea
253. Knowledge Commune
254. Korean Pharmacists for Democratic Society
255. MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society International Trade Committee

256. Alternativa3
257. Asociación Dignitat i Solidaritat - ADIS
259. CCOO de Construcción y Servicios
261. Confederación Intersindical
262. Coordinadora Ecologista de Asturias
263. Coordinadora Estatal de Comercio Justo
264. Debt Observatory in Globalisation
266. Ecologistas en Acción
267. ELA (Euskal Sindikatua)
269. Eticambio
270. Federación de Sanidad y Sectores Sociosanitarios (FSS-CCOO)
271. FeSP-UGT
272. Herver Trading SL
273. Ingeniería Sin Fronteras / Engineering Without Borders
274. Intersindical Valenciana
275. Izquierda Unida
276. La Tenda De Tot El Món
277. Mujeres de Negro contra la guerra
278. OMAL - Paz con Dignidad
280. Pica Pica HackLab
281. Plataforma “Asturias No a los Tratados de Libre Comercio”
282. Plataforma Auditoria Ciudadana de la Deuda _Sevilla
283. Plataforma Cantabria por lo Público y Contra los Recortes

284. Gender Studies Centre

285. Friends of the Earth Sweden / Jordens Vänner

286. Association for Proper Internet Governance

287. Mazingira Network - Tanzania (MANET)

The Netherlands
288. Both ENDS
289. FNV
290. Milieudefensie
291. Ondernemers van Nu
292. Platform Aarde Boer Consument
293. Platform Duurzame en Solidaire Economie
294. SOMO
295. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Dutch section

296. Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux (FTDES)

297. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)
298. Community resources devt initiative kibaale
299. The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers, FIDA Uganda
300. Action Aid Uganda

United Kingdom
301. Fresh Eyes - People to People Travel cic
302. Friends of the Earth EWNI
303. Global Justice Now
304. GMB Trade Union
305. Traidcraft Exchange
307. Unite the Union
308. War on Want

United States of America
309. Action on Smoking and Health
310. AFL-CIO
311. Agricultural Missions Inc
312. Alliance for Global Justice
313. Amazon Watch
314. Center for Constitutional Rights
315. Center for International Environmental Law
316. Citizens Trade Campaign
317. Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
318. Consumer Federation of America
319. Earthworks
320. Franciscan Action Network
321. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
322. Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project
323. International Campaign for the Rohingya
324. International Center for Technology Assessment
325. International Corporate Accountability Roundtable
326. Knowledge Ecology International
327. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
328. People Demanding Action
329. Public Citizen
330. Sierra Club
331. The Jus Semper Global Alliance

332. REDES-Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay

333. Vanuatu National Workers Union