What do bilateral investment treaties actually offer us?
Thanks to the negotiations about TTIP, the public debate about bilateral investment treaties (BITs) is slowly underway. Especially the ‘Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism’ (ISDS) of TTIP threatens to lower the norms to protect people and the environment. BITs make use of very controversial arbitrage systems (ISDS), which enable investors to bypass the national court to sue governments for their national policies and laws.
VIP treatment of multinationals
For decades already, BITs are responsible for burdening taxpayers with bearing the costs of billions losses of big multinationals. Meanwhile, profits are being privatised. BITs have already facilitated that many multinationals enjoy a special legal status for the national law of various countries, because of which their practices do not have to obey to all existing social and environmental laws. The publication ‘To change a BIT is not enough’ – which was recently launched by Both ENDS – shows the far-reaching consequences of these mechanisms on the basis of multiple international examples.
The taxpayers’ burden
Imagine that a foreign multinational sues the Dutch state, because the Dutch social and environmental laws would be too strict for the practices of that company. And imagine that the judge considers the multinational to be right, and that the Dutch government would be fined €2 billion euros to compensate for the costs incurred by the company. Why would Dutch tax money be paid to that company, if our own, democratically elected government wants to protect us from damage to the environment? This scenario is not only realistic. In fact, it is the bitter pill that various countries have already been forced to swallow, because Dutch companies sued them in front of the court of the bilateral investment treaty with the Netherlands. And before you know it, the tables have turned and we pay – with our money and our norms – to those big American multinationals due to the ISDS of TTIP.
Both ENDS argues for inclusive and sustainable development
Instead of asking which mechanisms are best suited to protect the rights of foreign investors, Both ENDS argues that international investment agreements (IIA) need to focus on the question how local stakeholders can be involved in the decision-making process. In addition, strong social and environmental regulation for investments in sovereign states are urgently needed, in order to ensure that investments actually contribute to inclusive and sustainable development of countries.
For more information:
- To change a BIT is not enough (September 2015), Both ENDS
- Socialising losses, privatising gains: how Dutch investment treaties harm the public interest (January 2015), SOMO, Both ENDS, Milieudefensie, TNI
- Parliamentary questions about Bilateral Investment Treaties (8 April 2014), Both ENDS
Read more about this subject
News / 26 January 2022
Ondiri wetland in Kenya will host the official national World Wetlands Day
celebration on the 2nd of February. This news was received with much joy by the residents of Kikuyu Town and conservationists. For many years, Ondiri Wetland was
polluted and degraded, especially due to encroachment and greenhouse farming. But thanks to sustained and concerted efforts by the residents together with a broad range of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, the conservation of this critical wetland is now being secured. Violet Matiru from Kenyan organisation Millennium Community Development Initiatives (MCDI), finds it a great honor that Ondiri was selected for the celebrations. "The cherry on the pie!"
External link / 20 January 2022
The Wetlands without Borders programme aims to preserve the biodiversity of the La Plata Basin and the sustainable livelihoods of its communities. Preservation of the La Plata Basin is essential for protecting the region from flood and drought, and preserving the quality of life of its inhabitants. Click here for the programme's website and for the latest information.
External link / 6 January 2022
News / 6 January 2022
"The mangroves were choking, gasping for air. When the dam was partially opened, they could finally breathe again. It was the breath that the animals, the fish in the rivers, the crabs, shrimps and oysters had all been craving."
On the northeast coast of Brazil, activities have been underway since 2007 to develop and extend the port of Suape. The port is being developed partly to support oil drilling along the Brazilian coast. The project is controversial because of the disastrous impact it is having on the natural environment, the rivers, the mangroves, marine life and the people who have lived in the region for many generations. Together with Fórum Suape, specially set up to combat the development of the port, Both Ends has been working for almost ten years to protect the rights of local communities in and around Suape. Now there has been a breakthrough – literally. In August of last year, a controversial dam in the Rio Tatuoca that was destroying the mangroves and the aquatic life in the area was partially dismantled. We spoke to Mariana Vidal,* project coordinator at Fórum Suape, about how that came about and what changes have taken place in the area since.
News / 23 December 2021
2022 is the year for FMO to make good on its promises and provide financial support only to sustainable development
2021 was a turbulent year for Dutch development bank FMO, to say the least. The bank has been under fire for many years for investments linked to human rights violations and suspected corruption. But in the past year, the Dutch press and media have reported on one new development after the other in ongoing cases involving FMO. Below we give a short summary of these cases and call on FMO to make the promised improvements in 2022.
News / 21 December 2021
In Ghana, the effects of climate change are already tangible, just like in many countries around the world. How to ensure that these different experiences are heard and known by the Ghanaian government so that it will take actions that have a positive effect on people and their environment? And how to make local communities aware that they can hold the government accountable - and even have the responsibility to do so? During COP26 in Glasgow we spoke with Kenneth Nana Amoateng (47) and Richard Matey (30). Kenneth works at the AbibiNsroma Foundation, a local NGO, and took it as his mission to advocate for a healthy environment, climate change, and to give young people opportunities. Richard is part of that younger generation and works at the Alliance for Empowering Rural Communities in Ghana.
External link / 14 December 2021
Launched in 2016, GAGGA is a consortium led by Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres in collaboration with Mama Cash and Both ENDS. GAGGA rallies the collective power of gender, climate and environmental justice movements around the world. Watch the video to learn more about what GAGGA does and who's involved.
Blog / 10 December 2021
Pharmaceuticals hold on to their patents and (our) governments do not remove the barriers to free production that were raised under international trade agreements years ago.
Event / 7 December 2021, 14:00 - 15:15
The European Union's (EU) foreign trade policy has many implications for the sustainability of food systems in developing countries, heavily impacting farmers, breeders, and citizens. The unhidden promotion by the EU of strong intellectual property rights on plants affects food systems from its very basis, i.e., the seeds that are available for farmers to grow. Amongst these intellectual property rights, the main instrument that is advocated by European authorities is the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention, which provides exclusive rights to breeders over the propagating material of new plant varieties, while diminishing the rights of others to use the material for further breeding and hampering with the rights of farmers to freely save, use, exchange and sell their seeds.
Publication / 29 November 2021
News / 22 November 2021
Export support – and especially that to fossil projects – has been in the spotlights quite often recently. This is a positive development, because the Netherlands alone provides fossil export support worth 1.5 billion euros per year. At the climate summit in Glasgow, the United Kingdom launched a statement promising to stop providing export support to fossil projects by the end of 2022. After having denied at first, the Netherlands decided to join the statement after all – which now has already been signed by nearly forty countries and financial institutions.
External link / 17 November 2021
Julio Bichehe Erneste of Farmers Union Cabo Delgado Mozambique (UPC) on a side event of COP26 in Glasgow, speaking about the negative impacts of export support for fossil fuel projects for local people and their enrironment, and about the need to support renewable energy projects instead.
News / 8 November 2021
Both ENDS and SOMO condemn violence against Indigenous community near the Barro Blanco dam in Panama
Members of the Indigenous Ngäbe Buglé people were brutally attacked by Panamanian police on Friday 29 October 2021 from a parcel of private land near the FMO-financed Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam. The victims, all members of the anti-dam movement M22, had peacefully occupied the land after their protest camp got dismantled in July this year.
News / 8 November 2021
Today, the Netherlands announced that it will join a leading group of countries, including the United States, Canada and Italy, which declared that they would stop international support for fossil energy projects. At the day of the launch of the declaration at the climate summit in Glasgow on the 4th of November, the Netherlands had no intention of joining, but because of pressure from civil society and political parties, the responsible ministries decided to sign after all. Both ENDS, together with organizations at home and abroad, has been pushing for this for years, and we are very happy with this step. We will of course continue to monitor developments.
Event / 6 November 2021, 13:00 - 15:00
This Saturday, November 6, people all over the world will take to the streets again to make a stand for the climate. In the Netherlands, the Climate March will take place in Amsterdam, and of course Both ENDS will join. We call on everyone who is concerned about the climate, to walk along with thousands of like-minded people and make this the largest Climate March in history!
Event / 4 November 2021, 16:45 - 18:00
UNFCCC COP 26 side event ‘Aligning export finance with the Paris Agreement: high time to phase out fossil fuels’
Many countries heavily support fossil fuel investments abroad through their export credit agency (ECA). This contributes to carbon lock- in, whereby companies or even countries commit themselves to a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions for the lifetime of the infrastructure — oftentimes years or even decades. This seriously delays the transition to renewable energy sources, and is certainly not in line with Art. 2.1c of the Paris Agreement.
Highlighting the impacts caused by export finance in the global South, this side event will provide concrete recommendations to decarbonize export credit agencies.
Event / 4 November 2021, 13:15 - 14:30
With gender-responsiveness a work in progress, current climate funds are hardly accessible for women-led community based organizations. While these groups lack access to finance and decision-making, they already lead bold holistic gender-just climate solutions and initiatives worth funding support.
Follow this event live on YouTube!
Publication / 2 November 2021
External link / 31 October 2021
In this short video, Niels Hazekamp of Both ENDS talks about how the Netherlands stimulates projects related to the fossil sector abroad through its export credit agency (ECA) Atradius DSB. The ECA provides export credit insurance for very large-scale and high-risk activities abroad. About two thirds of this export support (worth around 1.5 billion euros per year) is going to the fossil fuel sector. Absurd, at a time when the whole world has to make the transition to sustainable energy. Our country should not support the fossil, but the renewable energy sector with such guarantees, and grab that chance of 1.5 billion!
Press release / 26 October 2021
Today, on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, the fossil fuel divest-invest movement released a new report that details how institutions representing an unprecedented total of EUR 33.7 trillion worth of assets have now committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment, a figure that's higher than the annual GDP of the United States and China combined.