Human Rights and Investment Policy Making: Relevance and Integration

Symposium on Business and Human Rights (with OHCHR)

Date: 15 October 2014
Time: 14:00-17:00
Location: Palais des Nations, Room XX
Organizing parties:


Recent normative developments, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), specify that government and market actors have respective duties and responsibilities to safeguard human rights in the context of all business activity, including investment. Nevertheless, understanding how human rights are relevant to investment and what that implies for investment policy making is still nascent. In fact, while there is a flurry of activity directed towards bringing company practice in line with the UNGPs, a serious gap exists with respect to government policy making. Few efforts, if any, consider what the UNGPs imply for investment policy making, including in particular international investment agreements (IIAs) and State-investor contracts given the differentiated duties and responsibilities of governments and companies for human rights.

While UNCTAD’s Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development (IPFSD) is a welcome starting point in this regard, more work is required to distill the meaning and implications of the UNGPs for a range of governmental and market actors.

Elements for the debate

  • How are human rights relevant to investment given the experience of State, commercial and civil society practitioners?
  • What implications may the relevance of human rights have for investment policymaking at the domestic and international levels?
  • What good practices or new initiatives to integrate human rights into investment policymaking can be identified?

Expected achievement and outcome

The panels contributed to a better understanding of how human rights are relevant for governments and other stakeholders involved in international investment and presented concrete examples of good practice and suggestions for where more work can be done to better integrate human rights into national and international policies (including rules, structures and processes) that support, facilitate, promote and protect foreign investment.


The session was divided in two parts. Each part consisted of a panel of experts from relevant areas of practice.


Opening Speakers

  • Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary General, UNCTAD
  • H.E. Mr. Gabriel Duque, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Colombia to the WTO
  • H.E. Mr. Minelik Alemu Getahun, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Panel I: The relevance of human rights to investment policy making

This panel presented a series of perspectives from civil society, government and commercial practitioners on the relevance of human rights to investment policy making based on their direct experiences.
Panel Speakers:
  • Ms. Andrea Saldarriaga, London School of Economics (Moderator)
  • Ms. Niki Kruger, Chief Director, Trade Negotiations, Department of Trade and Industry, Republic of South Africa
  • Mr. Toby Landau QC, Essex Court Chambers
  • Mr. Lorenzo Cotula, Principal Researcher, Law and Sustainable Development; International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • Mr. Keith Myers, Director, Richmond Energy Partners
Panel II: Effective integration of human rights in investment policy making
Building on the discussion in panel I, this panel presented existing efforts on integrating human rights in investment policy making and discussed the opportunities that the UNGPs and other mechanisms offer for effective integration.
Panel Speakers:
  • Ms. Andrea Shemberg, London School of Economics (Moderator)
  • Ms. Elisabeth Tuerk, Chief, International Investment Agreements, UNCTAD
  • Ms. Lene Wendland, Adviser, Business and Human Rights, OHCHR
  • Mr. Valerio Bosco, Economic Affairs Officer, African Minerals Development Centre/UNECA
  • Ms. Begaiym Esenkulova, Assistant Professor of the International and Business Law Department, American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyz Republic