During 14-25 September 2015, UNCTAD’s Trade Development Board (TDB), the organization’s governing body which reports to the General Assembly, held its sixty-second session in Geneva. On 16 September, more than 100 participants from governments, including vice-ministers and ambassadors, as well as representatives from the private sector and international and civil society organizations discussed item 7: Investment for Development – Reforming the International Investment Regime. This was UNCTAD’s first inter-governmental meeting in response to the mandate in the outcome document of the Financing for Development (FfD) conference, held in July 2015 in Addis Ababa, to continue consultations on international investment agreements (IIAs).
During the event, delegations discussed the analysis, findings and proposals made in UNCTAD’s 2015 World Investment Report and more specifically, UNCTAD’s Roadmap for Reform of the International Investment Regime.
Panelists from Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and the European Union presented their approaches towards IIA reform, largely reflecting policy options formulated in UNCTAD’s 2015 World Investment Report. Following interventions by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), the following key messages emerged from the debate:
- Delegates agreed on the pressing need to reform today’s IIA regime. UNCTAD was commended for its pertinent analysis of the challenges facing the regime and for providing action-oriented solutions, including specific treaty examples in the 2015 World Investment Report.
- Delegates concurred that a “new generation of investment policies” was emerging. It was noted that UNCTAD’s recently updated Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development is a key instrument guiding policymakers on this issue, worldwide.
- Some delegates underlined the threat of further fragmentation of the IIA regime as countries reform their treaties with different approaches and without proper consultation or coordination. A need for a multilateral support structure was noted and delegates reiterated UNCTAD’s function as a forum for international consensus building in support of international initiatives to reform investment governance.
- Asia Pacific Group
- Group 77 and China
- Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC)
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Road Ahead: Today, stakeholders are closer to a common understanding of the problems in the IIA regime than ever before. However, a lot of work remains to be done. Further action is needed, at the national, bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. As indicated in the 2015 World Investment Report, a global review of the IIA regime can identify lessons learned, systemic risks and emerging issues. Multilateral consensus building can help develop a shared vision on systemic reform. Developing criteria and guidelines, together with supporting instruments and institutions, can bring us closer to a Multilateral Action Plan for IIA Reform.