April 04, 2007: NGO's file Amicus Curiae Brief on Right to Water and Sanitation in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Publish Date: 
Friday, August 3, 2012

On April 4, 2007, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), a non-governmental organization in Argentina and a member of the International Network of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights together with three other Human Rights Organizations filed an amicus curiae brief to a tribunal of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a body established by the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between states and nationals of other states responsible for conciliation and arbitration of investment disputes between contracting states and nationals of other contracting states. The ICSID tribunal is hearing a water-related investment arbitration initiated by a corporate consortium against Argentina


This investment dispute before an ICSID tribunal is at the heart of the controversy between the Argentine government and a consortium of transnational water companies including Suez (France), Vivendi Universal (France), AWG Group (United Kingdom), and Aguas de Barcelona (Spain). The dispute concerns the provision of water and sanitation in the city of Buenos Aires and 17 districts of the province of Buenos Aires (the largest concession area in the world), in relation to the emergency measures freezing tariffs adopted by Argentina amidst its economic and social crisis of 2001.

The brief emphasizes that human rights law recognizes the right to water and its close linkages with several other human rights, including the right to life, health, housing, and an adequate standard of living. The brief further notes that human rights law requires that Argentina adopt measures to ensure access to water to the population, including physical and economic access. Under this light, the freezing of the tariff levels amidst an economic crisis allowed the population to have access to water and sanitation, and thus the measures complied with Argentina's requirements under human rights law.

The amicus curiae brief notes that human rights law requires Argentina to ensure access to water and sanitation to the population, and that the rationale underlying the freezing of tariff levels amidst an economic and social crisis is relevant for the interpretation and application of the standards of treatment in the relevant Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs)

On February 12, 2007, the ICSID Tribunal decided to allow a coalition of NGOs to submit an amicus curiae brief, despite objections by the claimant. This decision was preceded by the Tribunal's decision of May 19, 2005, which ruled that it had the power to accept amicus curiae briefs from civil society organizations, even in the face of objections from parties. The two decisions set a landmark precedent by recognizing the public interest involved in this water-related investment arbitration, which will influence water concessions around the world. Also, the Tribunal's decisions make a key contribution to introducing greater openness in international investment arbitration, which has been traditionally inaccessible to civil society.

       The English version of the amicus curiae brief is available here.   
The Spanish version of the amicus curiae brief is available here.        

The cover letter is also available (Spanish only).

For more information, please contact:

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Marcos Orellana, +1 202 785 8700, morellana@...

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, (CELS)
Gastón Chillier, Jimena Garrote, Carolina Fairstein, +54 11 4334 4200
Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ), Ezequiel Nino, + 54 911 5624 2334
Unión de Usuarios y Consumidores, Horacio Luis Bereten, ++ 54 911 4400 7035