Human Rights and Investment Policy Making

Relevance and integration
in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights
Session Type
Room number
Room XX
15 October 2014
14:00 - 17:00 Europe/Zurich

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.

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 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.


Secretary-General of UNCTAD
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Colombia to the WTO
Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Lead LSE Investment & Human Rights Project, London School of Economics and Political Science
Chief Director, Trade Negotiations, Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa
Essex Court Chambers
Principal Researcher, Law and Sustainable Development; International Institute for Environment and Development
Director, Richmond Energy Partners Panel
Lead LSE Investment & Human Rights Project, London School of Economics and Political Science
Chief, International Investment Agreements, UNCTAD
Adviser, Business and Human Rights, OHCHR
Economic Affairs Officer, African Minerals Development Centre/UNECA
Assistant Professor of the International and Business Law Department, American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyz Republic