Article from: TDM 1 (2008), in Editorial
In March 2007, the Commission on Investment, Technology and Related Financial Issues confirmed UNCTAD as the key focal point in the United Nations system for dealing with matters related to international investment agreements (IIAs), as part of its work on trade, investment and development. To this end, UNCTAD is also the forum to advance understanding of issues related to these agreements and their development dimension.
The universe of IIAs is in constant growth and evolution. By early 2007, around 5,500 investment-related agreements had been signed (including bilateral investment treaties, double taxation treaties and broader-scope economic integration arrangements with investment provisions). The participation of developing countries has also gained importance, not the least in the South-South context.
The existing IIA universe can be characterized by its almost universal coverage, but also by its complexity and lack of coordination, which poses important challenges to all members, but particularly to developing countries, that face additional difficulties due to limited resources and technical capacity constraints.
In order to address these issues, UNCTAD organized an Expert Meeting on Development Implications of International Investment Rule Making, which took place in Geneva on 28 and 29 June 2007 with the participation of experts from 54 states and representatives of various intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The discussion centered around three key issues: (i) how to achieve policy coherence between investment agreements and national policies and among the investment agreements themselves, (ii) how to balance public and private interests, and (iii) how to adequately address the development dimension of these agreements.
This special feature puts together the contributions presented at the meeting. It also seeks to bring attention to UNCTAD's IIA-related activities, which build on more than 30 years of experience in matters related to foreign investment, trade and development. The work programme on IIAs includes research and policy analysis, such as the IIA Issues Series, the Series on International Investment Policies for Development, as well as monitoring and information services including the IIA Monitor and the online databases on Bilateral Investment Treaties and investment dispute settlement cases. Other activities include human resource capacity building (through intensive training courses and distance learning); advisory services (including policy advisory missions and regional seminars); institution building (through a network of IIA experts and policy makers and civil society engagement events); and consensus-building services (UNCTAD Investment Commission and its expert meetings).