SIGN-ON to call on the Colombian government to withdraw from treaties that allow Colombia to be sued in tribunals designed by and for transnational corporations
We need your support for Colombia to recover its sovereignty and protect water and territories threatened by tribunals designed by and for the benefit of transnational corporations.
This declaration is being promoted by a coalition of affected communities and national and international civil society organizations, calling on the Colombian government to undertake a full review and to withdraw from International Investment Agreements that allow transnational mining companies like Glencore and Canadian firms Eco Oro, Galway Gold and Red Eagle to sue Colombia in tribunals designed to favor their interests and which are incompatible with human rights and environmental protection. These claims, or the mere threat of them, can work against the passage and implementation of the laws, public policies and judicial decisions that are needed to address the climate crisis, end our reliance on extractivism, and work toward an energy transition based on social and environmental justice.
Support us with your sign-on here
These multimillion-dollar claims, which can result in payouts to transnational corporations from public funds, are a result of the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism. ‘ISDS’ is included in Free Trade Agreements and Bilateral Investment Treaties and exclusively permits transnational investors to sue governments when they – legitimately and in fulfillment of their obligations – adopt changes to norms, regulations and public policies, or when judicial decisions are reached in favor of the rights of communities and the protection of ecosystems essential for life.
According to statistics from the Colombian Agency for the State’s Legal Defense, as of late 2022 there are 12 ISDS claims in process and 7 more in the initial stages. An estimated total of 2 billion USD is being sought by private corporations, which Colombians will have to pay out of their own taxes for seeking to defend their water and territories.
These claims have been brought by transnational corporations from five countries: the US, Canada, the UK, Switzerland and Spain. The majority are extractive industry firms, which frequently use ISDS to pressure governments against reforms that favor people and planet. It is urgent that the Colombian government review and withdraw from this arbitration mechanism – designed by and for transnational corporations – especially at a time when the country seeks to reform its mining code, prohibit fracking, and implement other policies in favor of life and to address the climate crisis.
A study of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights declares that state obligations to protect human rights are incompatible with these investment agreements and arbitration tribunals, and recommends that states renegotiate or withdraw from such agreements. Various governments from the Global North and South have done just that.
At present, the transnational corporation Glencore, owner of the Cerrejón coal mine, is suing Colombia to try to force the government to pay a million dollar compensation following a Constitutional Court decision in favor of the Wayúu people. This decision suspended the expansion of one of the mine’s open pits in La Guajira in order to protect the Bruno stream, a vital source of water for the region.
Another example of this transnational corporate abuse of power is Eco Oro, a Canadian company that sought to extract gold from the Santurbán páramo (high altitude wetlands). Eco Oro is suing Colombia for $736 million dollars because its project was brought to a halt thanks to massive protests about the fact that it threatens one of the most important ecosystems in the country. The arbitration tribunal found Colombia had violated the terms of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement; however, the amount that Colombia might have to pay the company is as yet unknown. Two other Canadian companies have similarly sued.
These claims are a form of blackmail against governments and weaken the efforts of communities to exercise their rights to water, a healthy environment and self-determination in the face of the abuses and grave violations that corporations commit with impunity. As a result, we call on Colombian President Gustavo Petro, Vice President Francia Márquez, and the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to review the International Investment Agreements that include this mechanism, and to withdraw from this unjust, arbitrary and colonialist system.
For these reasons, we request that the Colombian government:
- Initiate a comprehensive review of the Investment and Free Trade Agreements that contain Investor-State Dispute Settlement, in order to urgently denounce, renegotiate or terminate all existing International Investment Agreements with the aim of eliminating the ISDS mechanism. In this way it will be possible to recover state sovereignty to regulate in the interest of the environment and the Colombian people, to defend the independence and role of the judicial system, and to respect the self-determination of Indigenous peoples and other communities seeking justice and accountability for environmental damages and violations of their rights.
- Withdraw from the ICSID Convention and promote the use of the national justice system for the resolution of investor-State disputes.
- Refrain from signing new treaties with investment protection clauses and the ISDS mechanism.
- Decree a moratorium before re-signing or ratifying more international investment agreements.
- Focus its efforts on creating binding mechanisms for corporate accountability and responsibility, strengthening obligations for closure plans, environmental restoration and comprehensive reparations for victims of corporate abuses by transnational corporations. Similarly, the government of the Global Force for Life should take a lead role in the negotiation of the UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights to force transnational corporations to be held accountable for the harms they cause, and to repair the damage in accordance with the proposals of Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and peasant communities to decide what happen on their territories.
Review the full statement, which will be sent to the Colombian Government with your signature HERE.
Join the list of organizations promoting the Declaration, and ensuring its delivery to the government soon in an international mission:
- Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (CINEP)
- Comité para la defensa del Agua y el Páramo de Santurbán
- Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” – CAJAR
- Grupo de Investigación en Derechos Colectivos y Ambientales -GIDCA- de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia
- Semillero de Investigación en estudios sobre minería, de la Facultad de derecho y ciencias políticas de la Universidad de Antioquia
- Asociación MINGA
- Asociación Unidad Campesina de Santander
- Bakata- Escuela Popular Ambiental y Cultural de P.A.
- Central Ecológica de Santander
- Comité ambiental de Piedras Tolima
- Colectivo Animalista de Tibasosa “MascoTiba” Tibasosa-Boyacá
- Comité Medioambiental Cali Comuna 22
- Corporación Casa Amazonia – Mocoa Putumayo
- Corporación Colectivo CreAcción
- Corporación Grupo Semillas
- Corporación para el Desarrollo Sostenible y el Patrimonio Cultural ACCION VIVA Fundación de mujeres tejiendo vida
- Instituto Nacional Sindical – CEDINS
- Junta de acción comunal del pedral – Santander
- Movimiento Alianza por el Agua
- Movimiento Social en defensa de los Ríos Sogamoso y Chucuri-Movimiento Ríos Vivos
- Observatorio VigíaAfro
- Red de Acueductos comunitarios de Moniquirá
- Red de Mujeres en Defensa de la tierra y la Autonomía
- Rebelión o Extinción Bogotá
- Sabiduria Ambiental
- Unión de Ciudadanas de Colombia – Capítulo Antioquia
- Veeduria alerta ambiental
- Plataforma América Latina mejor sin TLC (Regional)
- Accion Ecológica (Ecuador)
- Asamblea Argentina mejor sin TLC (Argentina)
- ATTAC Argentina (Argentina)
- Asamblea Jachal No Se Toca (Argentina)
- Asociación Argentina de Abogados/as Ambientalistas (Argentina)
- Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo SJ” – CSMM (Ecuador)
- Comisión DDHH Quilpue (Chile)
- Fuerza Socioambiental en Defensa de los Territorios (Chile)
- Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo (Ecuador)
- Mujeres de Zona de Sacrificio en Resistencia Puchuncaví Quintero (Chile)
- Movimiento Chao Pescao (Chile)
- Movimiento de Pobladores Organizados (Chile)
- Mujeres en Resistencia (Chile)
- Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio – RMALC (México)
- Red de Estudios y Empoderamiento Afrodescendiente (República Dominicana)
- Red de Información y Acción Ambiental de Veracruz (México)
- Slow Food comunidad Guasco Resiste (Chile)
- Center for International Environmental Law – CIEL (EEUU)
- Global Justice Now – GJN (Reino Unido)
- Institute for Policy Studies – IPS, Global Economy Program (EE.UU.)
- London Mining Network (Reino Unido)
- Mining Watch Canada (Canadá)
- TerraJusta (Bolivia/Reino Unido)
- Transnational Institute – TNI (Países Bajos)
- alterNativa Intercanvi amb Pobles Indígenes (Catalunya)
- Amazon Watch (EE.UU.)
- Asociación de estudiantes y creadores colombianos en Francia-COLCREA (Francia)
- Asociación Millaray (España)
- Both ENDS (Países Bajos)
- Common Frontiers (Canadá)
- Comité Pour les Droits humains en Amerique Latine (Canadá)
- Carrefour d’animation et de participation à un monde ouvert, Québec (Canadá)
- Decolonial Centre (Brazil/Sudan/UK)
- Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika – IGLA (Austria)
- Fresh Eyes (Reino Unido)
- ONG AFRICANDO (España)
- PowerShift e.V. (Alemania)