IIED webinar: civil society submissions in investor-state arbitration – do they work?

Learning event

This webinar discussed how civil society groups can bring forward community perspectives, human rights or environmental issues in investor-state arbitrations.

A mountain of tailings, or mining waste, at an open-pit copper mining complex southwest of the city of Arequipa in southern Peru (Photo: A Davey, Creative Commons via Flickr)

A recent rise in natural resource investments, such as agribusiness and mining, has increased pressures on land in many low- and middle-income countries. People are coming together to protect their rights, to seek better terms or to oppose investments. Citizens groups in many countries are taking action to change the way that investments in natural resources are happening, working to protect the environment and the rights of citizens. 

Investment treaties are international agreements between two or more states intended to promote foreign investment. Most treaties enable investors to bring disputes with the host state to international arbitration. Public or third-party interests may be at stake in these proceedings. IIED is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, 6 February 2018 to examine how civil society groups can make submissions to bring community perspectives, human rights or environmental issues to the attention of arbitral tribunals.

This online seminar was designed for civil society organisations in low- and middle-income countries that want to support communities whose livelihoods are affected by natural resource projects.

The webinar was co-convened by IIED and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI). It is part of IIED's work on 'Legal tools for citizen empowerment', a collaborative initiative that aims to help local communities protect their rights in relation to natural resource investments. 

Outline programme

IIED associate Thierry Berger then moderated a facilitated discussion with webinar participants. This looked at questions such as:

  • Why make a submission? 
  • How was the submission developed, who participated and in what ways? 
  • What were the challenges and how were they addressed? What difference did the submission make, if any? 
  • What insights can the experience provide for civil society working to scrutinise investment treaties and arbitration – which approaches can maximise the effectiveness of these submissions, and what alternative or complementary pathways should be explored? 
  • What learnings, if any, can be applied to ongoing discussions on reforming investor-state dispute settlement? 

About the main speaker

Dr Carlos Lopez is senior legal adviser, Business and Human Rights at the International Commission of Jurist (ICJ). He joined the ICJ in January 2008 to lead the programme on Business and Human Rights.

Carlos worked at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for six years in various capacities and posts, including the Rule of Law and Democracy, Economic and social rights and the right to development. Before that, he worked for the ICJ (1998-99), the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva (2000), and for several international human rights organisations as well as national human rights NGOs in his country, Peru. He holds a PhD and Masters in public international law (Graduate Institute of International Studies-Geneva University) and a diploma in sociology studies. He obtained his law degree at the Catholic University of Peru.


For more information about IIED's legal tools work, email legaltools@iied.org.

Lorenzo Cotula (lorenzo.cotula@iied.org), principal researcher in IIED's Natural Resources research group and team leader, legal tools