Human Rights and Investment

Human rights is core to CCSI’s work. Our vision is a world where investment strengthens and does not undermine human rights; one where global economic governance does not prioritize corporate interests over human well-being. Through our cross-cutting work in this area, we seek to advance that vision.

Law & Policy

We draw on expertise in international investment law and international human rights law to help reimagine international investment governance and to help strengthen the human rights regime, so that legal rules can meaningfully protect human rights in the context of investment.

In its current form, the international investment treaty regime may stymie the business and human rights agenda in various ways. This chapter, published in the Research Handbook on Human Rights and Business, provides an overview of the interaction between human rights law and the investment treaty regime and explores options for addressing the challenges that arise due to this interaction. Find it here.

This primer provides an overview of host government obligations concerning foreign investment under international investment law, international human rights law, domestic law, and relevant investor-state contracts. It also highlights some of the ways in which those legal obligations may affect or conflict with each other. Find it here

Among the critical issues that arise from the interaction of human rights and investment law is whether and how the relatively greater access to justice provided to aggrieved investors by the international investment regime undermines access to justice for other individuals and communities. CCSI conducts research on this topic, convenes events and dialogues with stakeholders, and proposes reform options in investment and human rights fora. Learn more.

CCSI has provided input to United Nations mandate holders on whether and how international investment treaties and investor-state dispute settlement can undermine the rights of human rights defenders. Learn more.

Among CCSI’s work at the intersection of investment law and human rights is a specific focus on how investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) undermines realization of human rights obligations. Learn more about workshops, speaking engagements, and other work on this issue area.

CCSI submitted an application to file a written submission as an “other person” in Bear Creek Mining Corporation v. Republic of Peru. CCSI’s submission focused on a range of issues, including the implications of international human rights law for the interpretation and application of investment treaty standards. Find it here.

CCSI and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples co-hosted a workshop on the rights of indigenous peoples and investment. Learn more, and access the outcome document, here.

Advancing land rights are a crucial step to ensure that investments have positive rather than negative impacts for local communities. CCSI undertakes strategic activities to influence existing international legal frameworks and agendas to strengthen land rights protections, particularly for the most vulnerable of land users, and to support new actors and sectors in focusing on land rights. Learn more.

While all our work takes a rights-based approach, we have a particular focus on realizing human rights within food systems, including the rights to food and nutrition. Through our scholarship, we increase understanding of these rights. Through our trainings and advocacy, we encourage protection and respect of rights. Learn more.

Investment approval processes are the gateway through which governments set the agenda for their country’s investment environment. Yet too often these processes fail to incorporate meaningful requirements regarding participation in decision-making by Indigenous and other affected communities, increasing the risk of under-performing and conflict-ridden investments. This briefing explains how host governments can incorporate FPIC and meaningful consultation into each stage of the investment approval process. Find it here.

CCSI is researching the politics of FPIC —how the distribution of power across different actors, the (mis)alignments of their interests, and characteristics of political systems and broader structures affect whether and how FPIC processes unfold in order to surface existing strategies that account for political realities and to recommend future strategies that may lead to the improved realization of the right to FPIC. Learn more.

Dealing with land-based investments and the grievances that they raise can be difficult for host governments, who face a complicated landscape of legal obligations and pragmatic considerations. This project examines the different legal frameworks governing what governments can do to address and remedy land-related grievances after investment concessions have been awarded, with a specific focus on government obligations under international investment law and international human rights law. Learn more.

Through its research, technical inputs, and convenings, CCSI works to help articulate the role of home states in advancing responsible and rights-compliant outward investment. Learn more.

Contracts & Human Rights

We demystify investment contracts and develop tools and strategies for more empowered community interactions with investors.

CCSI is exploring how free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) and consultation processes can be integrated into investor-state contract negotiations, taking into account the practicalities of contract negotiations, to better safeguard the land rights and human rights of members of project-affected communities. Learn more.

CCSI and Namati wrote two guides for communities and their advisors on interacting with investors. The guides help communities to protect their rights and interests when investors want to use their land. Guide 1 focuses on preparing for potential investors. Guide 2 focuses on negotiating contracts that protect the community’s interests. Find them here.

Existing guides and resources can assist communities and their advocates when interacting with investors. Yet these are not always easy to find. This directory highlights and links to relevant guides so communities and their advocates can find what they need, easily. Find it here.

CCSI has a growing portfolio of activities regarding community development requirements and community development agreements (CDAs) that includes: (i) mapping domestic legal requirements for community development in the context of mining projects; (ii) policy and research on best practices around CDAs and benefit sharing for extractive, agricultural, and forestry projects; and (iii) regularly maintained collection of publicly available community agreements relating to extractive, agricultural, and forestry projects. Find it here.

CCSI has developed (in partnership with NRGI) and, two searchable databases of contracts for natural resource and land-based investments from around the world. Contracts are annotated to highlight issues critical to human rights. also makes environmental and social impact assessments available, along with other associated documents. Learn more.

In March 2017, CCSI presented a working paper titled “Articulating a Rights-Based Argument for Land Contract Disclosure” at the World Bank Land & Poverty Conference. The paper explores whether and how existing state obligations under international human rights law require disclosure of land contracts and more transparent contracting processes around land investments. Find it here.

CCSI partnered with the Institute for Human Rights and Business to co-convene two colloquiums in New York and London on Policy, Law, Contracts, and Sustainable Investments. These events helped map efforts to embed sustainability and human rights in extractives projects and land deals, with a particular focus on what is negotiated and concluded in contracts. Read the outcome document.

Project-Level Impacts

We conduct research and develop resources that support rights holders and their advisors seeking to protect human rights in the context of investment projects

CCSI, in partnership with the Sciences Po Law School Clinic and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, has developed a collaborative approach to human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) of private sector investment projects. A collaborative approach to HRIAs provides an avenue to jointly undertake an HRIA that is considered credible by all sides and that helps to address the power imbalances that often exist between companies and communities around private sector projects. Learn more.

CCSI, working with the Carter Center, the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, and the Clinic of Sciences Po Paris Law School, supported local organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to carry out human rights impact assessments. CCSI also provided support to develop two economic models for the Sicomines mine in the DRC to compare the financial flows under the resource for infrastructure deal with a ‘traditional’ contract under the mining code of the DRC. 

CCSI submitted an amicus brief to the Constitutional Court of Colombia concerning a company challenge of a municipal-wide referendum (the Consulta Popular) concerning whether or not the extraction of hydrocarbons should be permitted in the municipality of Cumaral. CCSI’s brief focused on the international human rights law dimensions of the case, including the human rights of all people to information and public participation. Find it here.

CCSI evaluates laws, policies, and proposed mechanisms for redress to understand whether and to what extent they address the remedy gap faced by individuals or communities affected by investment projects. This work includes exploring implications for the ability of local rights holders to obtain redress when investors or lenders withdraw from a project, or when a project fails. CCSI also provided comments during the development of the Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration, drawing attention to procedural and substantive gaps the Rules could seek to address.