Sleeping Lions

International investment treaties, state-investor disputes and access to food, land and water

Publication date: 3 June 2011
Author: Javier Perez, Intermon Oxfam, Myriam Gistelinck, Oxfam Solidarité, Dima Karbala, MPA-ID Harvard University

Today, the world’s natural resources are under increasing pressure and are often the object of important power struggles between corporations, states and communities. National governments and international institutions are responsible for shaping the environment in which these different interests operate.

As foreign investments in land, water and other natural resources grow in number and magnitude, international investment treaties have become more and more relevant. The international investment legal framework prioritizes the protection of investors’rights over almost any other consideration.

Will this system weaken developing countries’ capacity to regulate their food, land and water sectors and introduce policies that promote food security and poverty reduction? What lessons can be learnt from the past? This paper sets forth the principal elements of this debate through the analysis of eleven international cases of state-investor disputes.