Aligning International Investment Agreements with the Sustainable Development Goals

44 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2019

See all articles by Lise Johnson

Lise Johnson

Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Lisa Sachs

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Nathan Lobel

Harvard Law School

Date Written: September 11, 2019

Abstract

International investment agreements (“IIAs”) provide enforceable protections to foreign investors in order to stimulate investment flows and therefore sustainable development. However, as understandings of both the effectiveness of these agreements as well as the effects of investment and investment governance on sustainable development have evolved, it is not clear that IIAs as currently designed are fit for that purpose. This paper examines the alignment of IIAs with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. This paper develops this examination in three ways. First, it proposes that IIAs should be designed and evaluated with respect to their ability to promote investments that advance sustainable development goals, and to withhold benefits from investments that undermine these goals. Second, it considers the effects of IIAs on policy-making processes and regulatory space, and cautions that current provisions in IIAs protect the interests of investors over those of other stakeholders and constrain states’ abilities to regulate investments to conform with the public interest. Finally, it suggests that international agreements could and should do more to address transnational governance gaps, regulatory races to the bottom, and global commons problems, where international commitments related to the governance of investment could advance development outcomes. While the authors affirm the importance of foreign direct investment and international investment governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, they argue that existing IIAs must be meaningfully reformed and future treaties reimagined in order to align with the sustainable development goals.

Keywords: International Investment, Investment Treaties, Sustainable Development

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Lise and Sachs, Lisa and Lobel, Nathan, Aligning International Investment Agreements with the Sustainable Development Goals (September 11, 2019). Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3452070 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3452070

Lise Johnson (Contact Author)

Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Lisa Sachs

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment ( email )

William C. Warren Hall, 1st floor
410 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
(212) 854-0691 (Phone)

Nathan Lobel

Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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