Think Tank on Investment and Human Rights

Rights & Democracy hosts its fifth-annual Think Tank in Ottawa on June 11. This year’s topic is Investment in Developing Countries: Meeting the Human Rights Challenge.

Montreal, June 2, 2003 ? On June 11, 2003, Rights & Democracy is proud to host its fifth annual Think Tank on international human rights and democratic development. This year’s event will focus on the topic: Investment in Developing Countries: Meeting the Human Rights Challenge.

Of the many vital concerns raised by the globalization trend, the effect of foreign investment on human rights in the developing world has received scant attention. “Rights & Democracy sees the upcoming Think Tank as a step in affirming the rightful place of human rights in the debate on globalized trade and investment,” says Jean-Louis Roy, President of Rights & Democracy. “Featuring presentations from both the business community and NGOs as well as government and inter-governmental representatives, we look forward to a lively and controversial discussion.”

This year’s Think Tank features speakers addressing the topic of investment and human rights in developing countries on three different panels. We’ll look at:

  • the business of resource extraction;
  • investment in the North American Free Trade Agreement and bilateral investment agreements;
  • multilateral debates around investment and the right to development.

While Rights & Democracy anticipates thought-provoking presentations from each speaker, a few notables are worth mentioning.

  • Canada’s Jim Freedmanwas a member of the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Types of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Freedman describes the title of the Panel as “UN-speak for a study on the origins of the conflict there.”

    Recently, news reports adopted the term “genocide” to describe what is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Released last year, Mr. Freedman’s report laid bare the root of this bloody conflict, one fuelled by the rule of corruption and greed. With five Canadian companies cited by name in the Security Council report as ventures considered by the Panel to be in violation of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Mr. Freedman’s talk will provide essential context for this debate. While a discussion of abstract rules and arcane treaties are an important aspect of our discussion, behind them is the very real fact that millions of people in the developing world are suffering and dying due to the unregulated pillaging of their natural resources by multinational corporations.


  • Mexico’s Maria-Teresina Guti?rrez-Hacespresents her evaluation of the impact Chapter 11 of the North America Free Trade Agreement is having on human rights in Mexico. The highly-controversial Chapter 11 allows private interests to appeal decisions taken by national governments, effectively providing foreign investors with a means of challenging the sovereignty of democratic nation states and paralyzing government policy.

  • Arjun Sengupta is a long-serving public servant, professor and human rights advocate from India. Mr. Sengupta will speak on the Right to Development, a topic on which he is currently serving as an independent expert with the UN Commission on Human Rights. Illuminating Mr. Sengupta’s perspective on the topic is his past experience as Executive Director of the the International Monetary Fund and Head of Administration for the Planning Commission of India.

The Think Tank will take place in the Robertson Main Conference Room of the Lester B. Pearson Building, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. A reception will follow from 5 to 7 p.m.