In this issue...a focus on investment treaties, a guide and webinar on promoting accountability in agricultural investment chains and a range of new publications.
 
IIED legal tools newsletter
The Legal tools newsletter is sent out every three months to keep you updated on legal tools for citizen empowerment, a collaborative initiative to strengthen local rights and voices in natural resource investments.

Spotlight: Rethinking international investment treaties

Dialogue meeting beneath the trees © Duncan MacQueen/ IIED

Plans to create a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between Europe and the US have sparked much debate about investment treaties – but hundreds of treaties concluded with low and middle-income countries have attracted little public attention.

Promoting debate on ways to rethink investment treaties has been one of the Legal Tools Team’s strategic areas of focus over the past year. We have been generating evidence, sharing lessons and feeding into policy.

In June 2015 we published ‘Land rights and investment treaties: Exploring the interface’, a report shedding light on how international investment treaties can affect local land rights – for example, in the context of land reform, action to tackle ‘land grabbing’ or the functioning of land governance systems.
 
We also published academic research on whether investment treaties unduly constrain policy space, and on how the relationship between human rights and investment law can affect pressures on the world’s natural resources.

Around the world, citizens’ groups are stepping up advocacy on international investment law – by scrutinising treaty negotiations, intervening in investor-state arbitrations, catalysing grassroots mobilisation or promoting public debate. Our team has facilitated international lesson sharing.
 
Civil society activists shared their experience at international webinars, and published lesson-learning reports on advocacy on Malaysia’s participation in Transpacific Partnership negotiations, and on submissions to an investor-state arbitration related to a mining project in El Salvador.
 
A report on ‘Democratising international investment law’ summarises key findings.

We have fed insights into policy processes at national and international levels – attending international dialogues and providing capacity support for government, parliamentarians and civil society.
 

News and blogs

A rally protesting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) takes place in Wellington, New Zealand (Photo: Neil Ballantyne, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Investment treaties and citizens' power: lessons from experience

There are growing calls to reform international investment law, but how can we ensure that the people affected by these decisions are part of the debate? Drawing from examples in Malaysia and El Salvador, our principal researcher Lorenzo Cotula advocates for more transparency and public oversight in treaty negotiations.

A gate blocks access to the customary lands of the Long Teran Kanan people in Sarawak. Malaysia has seen a huge expansion of oil palm plantations backed by international investors. The customary rights of local people are often ignored (Photo: Wakx, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Investment treaties, land rights and a shrinking planet

Commercial land concessions can be protected under international investment law, with important implications for indigenous peoples, small-scale rural producers, or landless and other poor and marginalised groups. In this blog, Lorenzo Cotula argues that securing land rights requires tackling these global dimensions. Read the associated briefing paper.

Our work

Phnom Penh: activists, students, monks and community members deliver a petition to Cambodia's National Assembly calling for increased protection for the country's natural resources (Photo: Luon Sovath, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Upcoming webinar: Promoting accountability in agricultural investment chains


Large-scale agricultural projects, which can affect the land rights and livelihoods of communities, often involve a 'web' of global actors (e.g. banks, companies importing farm produces) that are all part of an 'investment chain'. In a webinar on 11 September (12-1.30pm GMT+1) we will discuss how community groups can take action to make this web of actors more accountable and thus better defend the people whose lives have been negatively impacted by agricultural investments.

Our guest speaker David Pred, managing director at Inclusive Development International (IDI), will share his hands-on experience in promoting accountability in relation to land concessions in Cambodia.

The webinar will also feature the launch of a new advocate’s guide to securing accountability for agricultural investments.
 
Register Now!

If you missed it, watch our five-minute animated film designed to help local communities understand investment chains and protect their rights in the face of large-scale land acquisitions.

Publications and briefings

Cover image of Land rights and investment treaties: exploring the interface

Land rights and investment treaties: exploring the interface

 This report sheds light on how investment treaties can affect land rights. It finds that investment treaties can have far-reaching implications for land reform, for public action to address “land grabbing” and more generally for land governance frameworks. The report also charts directions for socio-legal research to explore how investment treaties are affecting land rights on the ground.

Cover image of Following the Money Guide
Following the money: an advocate’s guide to securing accountability for agricultural investments

This guide is for organisations and individuals working to support communities whose land rights, lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by agricultural investments. Drawing on real-life examples and lessons learned from activists and practitioners throughout the world, it provides guidance on strategies for holding the actors involved in agricultural investments accountable for human rights violations and all sorts of malpractices.
Asserting community land rights using RSPO complaint procedures in Indonesia and Liberia

Asserting community land rights using RSPO complaint procedures in Indonesia and Liberia

The complaints procedure of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is one of the options available to communities threatened by the negative impacts of the palm oil industry. Drawing on direct experiences of supporting communities to use the RSPO complaints mechanism in Indonesia and Liberia, Tom Lomax from the Forest Peoples Programme summarises how communities can get the most out of this procedure.

Cover image of write-up "democratising international investment law"

Democratising international investment law: recent trends and lessons from experience

This report discusses the conceptual underpinnings of a fundamental challenge to “democratise” international investment law; reviews trends in citizen engagement with international investment law; and distils lessons from some recent civil society experience.

Cover image of the write-up "Advocacy on treaty negotiations: lessons from malaysian civil society"

Advocacy on investment treaty negotiations: lessons from Malaysian civil society

Given their far-reaching implications, advocating on investment treaties negotiations requires developing effective alliances and well thought-out strategies. In Malaysia in 2013, 52 non-governmental organisations, trade associations and civil society groups established a coalition to raise public awareness and develop advocacy about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership with the US and other countries. In this publication,
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz draws lessons from that experience.

Cover image of the write-up Bringing community perspectives to investor-state arbitration: the Pac Rim case

Bringing community perspectives to investor-state arbitration: the Pac Rim case

Civil society organisations can play an important role in carrying and strengthening community voices in arbitration processes. In this publication, Thierry Berger, Saúl Baños and Marcos A. Orellana distil lessons from the experience of La Mesa, a coalition of community organisations, research institutes and environmental, human rights and faith-based non-profit organisations advocating on metals mining in El Salvador.
 

Cover image of the write-up "Community-based monitoring of land acquisition: from the Buseruka oil refinery, Uganda"

Community-based monitoring of land acquisition: from the Buseruka oil refinery, Uganda

In this paper, Bashir Twesigye explores the implementation of a community-based tool in Uganda that allows project-affected communities to monitor the legal compliance of resettlement and compensation processes in their localities.
 

Land rights, international law and a shrinking planet

Land rights, international law and a shrinking planet

As the media spotlight on ‘land grabbing’ wanes, Lorenzo Cotula interrogates the deeper-level transformations in control over natural resources at local to global levels, and explores how developments in international law are shaping these transformations while also creating new spaces for contestation and accountability.
 

Cover of:A time for change? Comments on Chad’s draft Land Code

A time for change? Comments on Chad’s draft Land Code 

Lorenzo Cotula and Thierry Berger provide comments and recommendations on Chad’s draft Land Code (January 2014 version), covering the overall structure of land ownership, management and administration systems, the protection of customary rights, safeguards in compulsory land acquisition, the rights of pastoralists, gender, land-based investments and dispute resolution. Also available in French.
 

Property in a shrinking planet: fault lines in international human rights and investment law

Property in a shrinking planet: fault lines in international human rights and investment law

In the International Journal of Law in context, Lorenzo Cotula explores how the articulation between investment law and human rights law influences how international law mediates competition for the world’s natural resources, redefining the balance between public and private interests and reshaping spaces for the lawful exercise of state sovereignty.

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