Human rights principles and standards are strongly reflected in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015. However, for victims of human rights violations at the hands of transnational corporations the question of redress remains daunting. Access to justice challenges faced by such victims before domestic courts have placed this issue at the forefront of international discourse. Accordingly, one of the ‘pillars’ on which the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) are founded is the “need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached”, including state-based judicial, state-based non-judicial, and non-state–based remedies.
In short, the SDGs and its interesting set of targets are a fertile ground not only to reimagine past UN led decade themed goals and their implications for (sustainable) development, but, to also situate them in contemporary discourse of the activities of nations, transnational corporations and other non-state actors. As part of the 2019 Purdy Crawford Workshop, the contributions to the symposium on “Sustainable Development Goals, Trade, Investment, and Inequality” critically examine these goals from the vantage point of each contributor’s scholarly expertise.
Local communities, for their part, consider investor responsibility a necessary part of the fabric of international law and politics. While the AU works towards framing business and human rights in Africa along with global developments regarding a treaty on business and human rights and treaties such as the Morocco/Nigeria BIT, African peoples and communities continue to adopt available mechanisms as avenues for communicating their positions on these important issues and exercising agency on a subject that is of utmost importance to their wellbeing.
This short piece argues that while these arguments may hold sway, host African states continue to have primary responsibility and should rise to their obligation to protect human rights of impacted communities against the harmful effects of TNCs’ activities. Moreover, the controversies surrounding the extraterritorial jurisdiction of states and the silence of international law regarding enforceable obligation on TNCs demonstrate the difficulty in embracing the newer approaches regarding the roles of home states and TNCs.
Attracting foreign investment while holding transnational corporations to account for any human rights transgressions is by no means an easy feat. It will require that a careful balance be struck between the interests of the host State and its people, and that of private actors expecting good risk-return ratios in pursuit of the bottom line. Although international mechanisms such as the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have long endorsed accountability for transnational corporations, a zero draft international convention to regulate this issue has only recently been developed.
This book symposium is about a new era of international investment norms in Africa. The discussion focuses on how to foster cooperation between African states and foreign investors in implementing sustainable development objectives and addressing global challenges. Several traditional investment treaties offer investors broad rights and protections that are backed by strong dispute settlement mechanisms. In the same vein, States have historically committed to non-reciprocal obligations in investment treaties that are seen as significantly limiting the policy space of states.
Many mainstream discussions on African regional integration focus on the role of the executive, bureaucrats and state institutions (hereafter referred to as state-actors) in facilitating regional integration. While state-actors play crucial roles in enabling regional integration from a “top-down” perspective, concentration on these state-actors inadvertently means that less focus is paid to the non-state actors involved in the process. This article explains that while state-actors do facilitate regional integration from a top-down perspective, non-state actors have the potential to (and in some cases, already do) facilitate regional integration using a “bottom-up” approach.
Reforming domestic law is critical to ensuring countries capture the benefits of their natural resources wealth. In addition, it is increasingly being recognized in investment treaty reform processes as well as in investor-state dispute settlement proceedings that investor compliance with domestic law is a prerequisite to entertaining investor claims against states.
Since TRIPS is extremely flexible on the PBRs regime to be adopted, they should obtain guidance from other balanced international instruments such as ITPGRFA. Further, they can obtain vital lessons from states such as India.