Report of the International Mission to Colombia: Stop investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)
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In May 2023, a delegation of 13 representatives from social and environmental justice organisations from eight countries in the Americas and Europe visited Colombia to share experiences of struggles against the global investment protection regime. The mission also went to learn firsthand about the peoples and ecosystems being threatened by corporate lawsuits, as well as the environmental, social and cultural harms that transnational investments have already caused, particularly in the departments of La Guajira and Santander.
The visit came in response to the significant rise in claims that transnational firms have made against the country in recent years, as highlighted in the Declaration “Recover Colombian Sovereignty in Defense of Water, Life and Territories”, signed by more than 280 organisations from 30 countries as well as 54 Colombian members of Congress. In the last five years, Colombia has faced some of the highest number of arbitration claims in Latin America. In 2018 alone, Colombia received more claims than any other country in the world.
Colombia’s pending claims currently total US$13.2 billion – equivalent to 13% of the nation’s budget for 2023 and nearly equal to what Colombia plans to spend on education this year.
According to the State National Agency for Legal Defense, as of March 2023, 14 arbitration processes were underway with eight more in the pre-arbitration stage. Colombia’s pending claims currently total US$13.2 billion (52 trillion Colombian pesos as of August 2023), although in three cases the amount claimed is not public. This is equivalent to 13% of the nation’s budget for 2023 and nearly equal to what Colombia plans to spend on education this year.
The bulk of investors that have brought arbitration cases are involved in the extractive industries, especially mining.
We witnessed how this system enables corporate impunity and threatens the realisation and defence of Colombians’ fundamental human and environmental rights. We also observed how this system interferes with judicial independence, environmental regulation, and national sovereignty.