Trade, Investment, Finance and Human Rights Organization Profiles

While NGOs throughout the world are actively engaged with negotiations related to the WTO, many are also challenging the bilateral and regional agree

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Bangkok, Thailand

Person(s) Interviewed: Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, and Pia Oberoi, ESCR and Development Program Coordinator

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a network of 31 national-level human rights and development organizations.  ESCR, including trade and finance, is one of four thematic areas of work of the Secretariat.  Capacity building and advocacy are traditional strengths of the Secretariat, which often serves to coordinate a regional platform for advocacy at such bodies as ASEAN, as well as the UN.  In terms of work on trade and human rights, FORUM-ASIA assisted in organizing the creation and publication of the 'Practical Guide to the WTO for Human Rights Advocates' with 3-D.  Strengthening their expertise and building on this publication, FORUM-ASIA is eager to build a training program on ESCR issues, including human rights and trade, engaging development NGOs (such as Focus on the Global South and Third World Network) on human rights and particularly building the trade knowledge of human rights organizations.  FORUM-ASIA is currently undertaking a mapping of its members regarding their ESCR-related work, interests, and needs, which will help to shape their programming and work related to trade and ESCR more broadly.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

Recently, FORUM-ASIA has been concentrated on creating space for NGOs within ASEAN, while taking up advocacy on specific investment/corporate cases, like Daewoo's involvement in the Shwe Pipeline in Burma.  With capital and corporations from China, India and Japan reshaping Asia, traditional human rights naming and shaming is not working, so now FORUM-ASIA suggests that Asian NGOs need to develop common positions and address regional issues.  As one aspect of this, FORUM-ASIA is particularly concerned about pending free trade agreements, and they are eager to strengthen their capacity to analyze and advocate on these issues.  As a next step, FORUM-ASIA would like to organize training workshops in Asia on trade, investment and human rights, particularly focused on free trade agreements being pushed in Thailand, Korea and beyond.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

FORUM-ASIA has a strong program of general human rights trainings, and the Secretariat has extensive expertise in utilizing the UN human rights system, including the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  FORUM-ASIA also has strong experience in and knowledge of a number of intersecting issues, including migrants' rights, the right to development, and Asia regional issues, including active engagement with ASEAN.

Language(s): English is the common language of work for FORUM-ASIA Members.



Quito, Ecuador

Person(s) Interviewed: Juana Sotomayor, Coordinator of the Justice Unit

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

CDES work on trade focuses on three main areas: (1) Campaigns, which are both national and regional (Andean region) and are against the FTAA and the FTA between the CAN and the United States (the four countries of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN)- Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru - are negotiating this agreement with the US, but they each have their own processes and require individual ratifications); (2) Informative Bulletins; and (3) Research on how the suspended FTA between Ecuador and the US would affect ESCR and the collective rights of the indigenous people, as well as its impact on national and regional human rights legislation, mainly in the framework of the legislation of the CAN and to some extent on the regional level.  The strongest part of their work on trade is focused on research and training, and less so on litigation, although they are working on amparos (similar to a writ of habeas corpus) in the face of the future ratification of the FTA with the US or the FTAA.  At the same time, they have discussed within different networks and organizations in the region the possibility of requesting a consultative opinion from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights on how trade agreements may affect the obligations assumed by the States in the American Convention on Human Rights.

In regards to investment, CDES works on the issue of foreign debt and how the conditionality of the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions affects human rights. In this work, they have presented complaints before the IACHR on structural adjustment and its impact on State budgets, and letters to the IDB as well as analytical document on the IDB's role in the region, among other activities.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

The main agreements being worked on are the FTA between Ecuador and the US and the FTAA.  CDES focuses this work on the right to health, issues regarding generic medicines, HIV/AIDS, intellectual property, and the ancestral knowledge of the indigenous peoples, as well as food security.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

The issue of ancestral knowledge and intellectual property, particularly regarding the indigenous peoples; information on the Andean region, and the linkages with indigenous peoples; the linkages of extractive industries with ESCR, particularly regarding petroleum; knowledge of the CAN and the legislation of the Andean Community that could be important for trade issues, particularly for regions who do not have this type of legislation.

Language(s): CDES works in Spanish.  They have translated some of their documents into English but it is not a working language of the organization, although some of the staff speaks English.



Mexico City, Mexico

Person(s) interviewed: Irasema Zavaleta, Responsible for the International Relations Area

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

The Center Prodh´s work has focused on developing the coordination between different organizations in the region in order to present reports to the IACHR Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression (Catalina Botero) on the right of access to information within the processes of economic integration in region.  It is hoped that these documents will serve as a contribution to and stimulus for the elaboration of an official report by the Rapporteur and/or the IACHR on this issue.  The research for the specific case of Mexico focuses on making use of the existing governmental mechanisms for transparency and access to public governmental information (the law and institutes) to ask questions to these bodies on the trade negotiations that Mexico is participating in.  The purpose of this is to assess the respect and promotion of the right of access to information in the country. Regionally, the initiative looks to have civil society organizations use the mechanisms on access to information available in their countries to attempt to gain information on the trade agreements that are being negotiated in their countries.  It is hoped that at the end of the study there will be enough information to undertake a comparative analysis of the level of respect for the right of access to information at the regional level. Additionally, there will be a specific focus on the current status of the negotiations of the FTAA.

The Center Prodh was one of the coordinating organizations for the hearing held before the IACHR in October 2004 on the process of economic integration and human rights; this was the first time that the IACHR held a hearing on this issue. Prior to this the Center Prodh also carried out educational activities on the use of human rights instruments as a tool in the work on free trade agreements, particularly regarding the FTAA and the WTO agreements. 

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

The agreements that are targeted in this project on the right of access to information include: FTAs, BITs, WTO agreements (services, agriculture and TRIPS), the Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America (SPP), and the FTAA.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization: Principle of the primacy of human rights, the Inter-American System, the right of access to information in regards to trade and investment agreements.

Language(s): Spanish, English


  • Los Derechos Humanos en los Procesos de Integración Económica en las Américas . Document presented before the IACHR for the hearing on economic integration and human rights, October 22, 2004. (Also available in English and French).
  • Obligaciones Incumplidas: Derechos Humanos y los Tratados de Libre Comercio en las Américas . Mexico City : Prodh, July 2004. (also available in English and French).
  • Todo se compra y se vende... También los derechos humanos . Mexico City: Prodh, August 2003. Pamphlet published in the context of the WTO's Ministerial Meeting in Cancun .
  • Pensar en el Campo Desde los Derechos Humanos . Mexico City : Prodh, May 2003. Document on the crisis of the Mexican countryside particularly due to the neoliberal economic model being applied in the country.
  • When finished, the report on the right of access to information and economic integration in the Americas will also be made public.
  • Several articles on the democratic clause within the Agreement on Economic Partnership, Political Co-ordination and Co-operation between Mexico and the European Union.


Cordoba, Argentina

Person(s) interviewed: Victor Ricco, Coordinator of the Participation and Access to Information Area

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

CEDHA has two thematic areas for their work: trade-environment and investment-environment. This work focuses on capacity building for national and international organizations, the dissemination of information on the different mechanisms that already exist within the IFIs for civil society participation, and related to the latter, the elaboration of amicus curiae.

In regards to trade, they participated in the last two WTO Ministerials to promote links between trade and human rights and the need for the WTO to open doors to participation and to be more transparent in the access to information, as well as promoting training for civil society organisations so that they have more influence on the WTO. In regards to MERCOSUR, CEDHA is part of the Observatory of Public Policies, which monitors the impact of policies on human rights. They also participated in the meeting of MERCOSUR's Human Rights Commission regarding regulating highly polluting industries which produce environmental degradation that results in human rights violations.  CEDHA has also carried out work on the FTAA.

Investment forms a larger part of CEDHA's work.  They work on monitoring the fulfillment of the norms regarding access to information, particularly concerning international financial institutions (IFIs) and they actively participate on policy matters, providing comments and recommendations in the revision processes of the policies of the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and European Development Bank, among others. CEDHA also works on ways to make progress on and direct the existing mechanisms for civil society participation, such as establishing Civil Society Advisory Committees (Comités Asesores de la Sociedad Civil, CASC) in the framework of the IDB in each country of the region.  Additionally, CEDHA works within the framework of the Global Trade Initiative, and carries out work on the IIRSA (Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America, Iniciativa para la Integración de la Infraestructura Regional Suramericana) and on the Andean Development Corporation (Corporación Andina de Fomento, CAF). CEDHA also works on Export Credit Agencies, in terms of questioning the ECA's obligations with respect to human rights and how they fulfill them.

A strong part of CEDHA's work is case-specific.  Some of these cases include: presenting an amicus curiae to the dispute settlement body of the WTO regarding the conflict of Argentina, the US and Canada with the EU on genetically modified organisms and its work on the well-known case of the paper mills ENCE (Spain) and BOTNIA (Finland) regarding the possible effects of these paper mill operations on the communities of Fray Bentos, Uruguay and Gualeguaychú, Argentina.  In this case they are using different strategies to defend the validity of human rights, particularly through the ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank; they have also presented a complaint before the IAHCR. 

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

CEDHA works from the belief that human rights and the environment are very connected in that any violation of the environment also impacts human rights.  In light of this, their work focuses on: access to information, the right to participation, environmental justice, the right to a healthy environment, the right to water and the right to health.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

CEDHA has expertise on human rights and the environment, the right of access to information and public participation, the right to water, the right to health, and democratic governance.  They have particular experience regarding access to information, participation, and how to work on cases related to IFIs and transnational corporations.

Language(s): Spanish and English


  • Apertura y Participación en las Negociaciones Comerciales: Un Futuro Posible. By Ricco and Wedemeyer. In Puentes Volumen IV, Nº2, July - September 2003, pag. 17.
  • Human Rights, Environment and the WTO . By Jorge Daniel Taillant. 2001.
  • Human Rights Accountability of Private Business: A Question of Sustainable Development . By Romina Picolotti and Jorge Daniel Taillant. International Council on Human Rights Policy. 2000.
  • Human Rights and the International Financial Institutions . By Jorge Daniel Taillant. 2002.
  • Amicus Curiae: European Communities - Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products WT/DS 291, 292 and 293. Ginebra, 27/05/04, presented by CEDHA in cooperation with GeneWatch UK; Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD - UK); Five Year Freeze (UK); Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, UK); The Center for Food Safety (USA); Council of Canadians; Polaris Institute (Canada); Grupo de Reflexión Rural Argentina; Gene Campaign (India); Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security (India); Fundación Sociedades Sustentables (Chile).


Buenos Aires, Argentina  

Person(s) interviewed: Jimena Garrote, member of the ESCR program

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

CELS' work combines legal actions with political advocacy strategies with the objective of achieving public policies that are designed and implemented in coherence with international human rights standards. With regards to trade and investment, a large part of CELS' work is focused on the impact of foreign investment on human rights.  It has also participated in the discussions regarding the FTAA within the International Coalition of Organizations for Human Rights in the Americas and it is one of the organizations who presented the document on economic integration and human rights before the IACHR in October 2004. 

CELS has worked on a project with Rights and Democracy on the impact of foreign investment on human rights which studied the case of the concession of the public water and sanitation services to Aguas Argentinas and its impact on the human right to water.  They also elaborated an amicus curiae brief with other organizations which was presented before the ICSID regarding the case of Suez-Aguas Argentinas against the Argentinean State.  In that case, the company was requesting an indemnification for the damage to their investment caused by the price freeze on services imposed by the government at the beginning of 2002.  In an unprecedented decision, the ICSID resolved to accept the presentations of amicus curiae in the case.

Previously, CELS had presented a case before the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the IMF denouncing the Fund's pressure on Argentina's government to increase prices on public services, outside of the legal mechanism for adjusting prices..  This action was complemented by a presentation for access to information before the local courts which requested that the Argentinean government state whether the price increases for services was among the conditions imposed by the IMF in order to reach a new agreement. 

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

Bilateral investment agreements, loans from International Financial Institutions, the right to water, the right to health, access to information, and social plans.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

CELS has experience working with and using the international human rights instruments and mechanisms. CELS has a very strong legal background and work within the OAS and UN; and experience working with several mechanisms and bodies, such as the World Bank, IMF, ICSID, etc. that are non-traditional bodies for the work of human rights organizations.

Language(s): Spanish and English


  • Amicus Curiae ante el CIADI en el caso Suez /Aguas Argentinas
    enero 2005 | Asoc Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia(ACIJ), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales(CELS), Centro para el Derecho Internac Ambiental (CIEL), Consumidores Libres Coop. Ltda. de Provisión de Serv de Acción Comunitaria y Unión de Usuarios y Consumidores.



Mexico City, Mexico

Person(s) Interviewed: Areli Sandoval, Coordinator of the Citizen Diplomacy Program and responsible for the work area on economic, social, cultural and environmental rights; Domitille Delaplace, responsible for the work area on multilateral banks and human rights; and Norma Castañeda, responsible for the work area on free trade and human rights within the Program.

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

The different thematic areas within Equipo Pueblo's Citizen Diplomacy Program reflect the organization's efforts to fully incorporate a human rights perspective, particularly on ESCR, into their work on social development, multilateral banks, and free trade. This work looks to encourage civil society participation in national, regional and international, economic and social decision making spaces and processes in order to promote the fulfilment of the Mexican State's international commitments and obligations in the area of ESCR in the face of econffomic globalization.

Equipo Pueblo has a strong component of advocacy work with the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Mexican government (such as the Secretariat of Foreign Relations, the Secretariat of the Economy, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate), the European Commission and the EC's Delegation in Mexico and with the MDBs and their offices in Mexico.   Part of this work is to establish consultation mechanisms, particularly with the Mexican government, on the impacts of trade and economic policies on social development, sustainable development and human rights in the country. Other aspects of their work on these issues include monitoring, research and analysis, education/training, and joint work through networks nationally, regionally and at the international level.

In its trade work, Equipo Pueblo looks to establish mechanisms of civil society participation in the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements, as well as monitoring the development of the agreements and future negotiations and providing alerts on their outcomes, such as on the Agreement on Agriculture and GATS within the WTO and the Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America (SPP), which is within the framework of NAFTA.

Equipo Pueblo's work on MDBs consists of monitoring and analyzing the operations, policies and programs of various banks in Mexico and their impact on social and sustainable development and human rights, particularly due to their investment in infrastructure projects as well as their promotion of the privatization of public services, such as water.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

Equipo Pueblo works on the Global Agreement between Mexico and the EU and the FTA between Mexico and the EU (Mexico-EU FTA) to advance civil society proposals regarding the democratic clause[1], a social observatory to monitor the impacts of the agreement, and the creation of a joint consultative committee in the framework of the agreement with the participation of civil society.  Equipo Pueblo also monitors European investment in the water and electricity sectors in Mexico. Other parts of their work include the FTAA, the WTO and NAFTA/SPP.  Their work on MDBs focuses on various sectorial policies and investment projects of the IDB, World Bank and European Investment Bank.

Equipo Pueblo's methodology of analysis, denouncement and the development of proposals incorporates the right to self-determination, food sovereignty, right of access to information, right to participation, the right to be heard, and the various rights that may be violated through the privatization of public services (the right to water, the right to adequate housing, the right to health, labor rights, etc.), with the right to development serving as an important link with other rights. 

Areas of Expertise/Specialization: Social development and international commitments and goals on this matter; social policy; economic policy; globalization; social programs and combating poverty; human rights, with a focus on economic, social, cultural and environmental rights; the universal system of protection for human rights; foreign direct investment and free trade; international financial institutions; structural adjustment policies; privatizations;  trade negotiations within the WTO; large-scale projects.

Language(s): Spanish, English, French


  • Román Morales, Luis Ignacio. Rodolfo Aguirre Reveles, et al. Evaluación Ciudadana del Ajuste Estructural (CASA) México. Ajuste y empobrecimiento: veinte años de crisis en México. DECA Equipo Pueblo/SAPRIN/Senado de la República. Mexico, January 2001.
  • Chapter on Mexico written by Areli Sandoval Terán for Social Watch's International Report 2002: "El Impacto social de la globalización en el mundo". Instituto del Tercer Mundo, Uruguay, 2002. (Also available in English)
  • Chapter on Mexico written by Areli Sandoval Terán for Social Watch's International Report 2003: "Los pobres y el mercado". Instituto del Tercer Mundo, Uruguay, 2003. (Also available in English)
  • "Los Tratados Comerciales como instrumento de las políticas de Ajuste Estructural y su impacto en los Derechos Económicos, Sociales, Culturales y Ambientales", by: Norma Castañeda Bustamante and Areli Sandoval Terán , Published in Memoria del V Seminario de Formación en DESC "Ante el Libre Comercio otra integración es posible", PROVEA. Caracas, Venezuela, July 2004.
  • "Ante el Libre Comercio otra integración es posible", by Norma Castañeda Bustamante, Published in Memoria del V Seminario de Formación en DESC., PROVEA. Caracas, Venezuela, July 2004.
  • "E l mecanismo de consulta y revisión de cumplimiento del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo", by Domitille Delaplace, Published in Memoria del Seminario Internacional sobre Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales. Programa de Cooperación sobre Derechos Humanos México-Comisión Europea/Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. Mexico, December 2005.
  • Case studies on EIB investment in Mexico : Project Volkswagen of Mexico and Project Mexi-Gas, by Domitille Delaplace, Published in: "El Banco Europeo de Inversiones (BEI) en el Sur. ¿En el interés de quién?" . Amigos de la Tierra Internacional, CRBM, CEE Bankwatch, WEED, Mexico, January 2006. (Also available in English).
  • Chapters on "The economic policy in Mexico and its impact on human rights" by Domitille Delplace, Areli Sandoval Terán and Norma Castañeda Bustamante and "The right to self determination", by Areli Sandoval Terán and Domitille Delaplace; Publisher in the Civil Society Report on the situation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Mexico (1997-2006). Alternative Report to the IV Periodic Report of the Mexican State on the application of the ICESCR. Mexico, April 2006 (available in Spanish and English). Chapter on Mexico by Norma Castañeda in "Estudio sobre el impacto social y medio ambiental de las inversiones europeas en México y Europa". Executive Summary. RMALC/CIFCA, May 2006.
  • Chapter on Mexico by Areli Sandoval Terán for Social Watch's International Report 2006 on measures for financing for development (in print, this will be available in Spanish and English).



Cairo, Egypt

Person(s) interviewed: Hossam Baghat, Director

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights' work on trade is connected to their Health and Human Rights program, mainly focusing on intellectual property rights in trade agreements and the affordability and availability of medicines.  In this, they carry out lobbying within the European Union and the UN, particularly with the now former Commission on Human Rights, UNGASS, and other mechanisms, which focuses on incorporating stronger human rights language on health and trade issues, access to medical treatment, etc. EIPR also works nationally, bringing more attention to these issues within the media and working with the national Parliament. They also researched and published a document comparing TRIPS with Egyptian Intellectual Property Law and its impact on health.  Their published study is a comparative study on FTAs between different countries in the region and beyond with the United States and how these agreements impact health, particularly related to IP. This study also looks at the upcoming negotiations between Egypt and the US for a free trade agreement. 

EIPR has litigated one case on health and trade related to the transnational corporation Pfizer who was suing two local pharmaceutical companies regarding the marketing approval of an essential drug. Pfizer withdrew the complaint in September 2005. 

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

TRIPS/WTO and the FTAs, which different countries in the region have signed or are negotiating with the US; the issues primarily being worked on concern health, particularly related to intellectual property rights.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

Trade and health issues, intellectual property rights, access to medical treatment and drugs.

Language(s): Arabic, English


  • Report on Egypt 's State Responsibility to Protect the Right to Health after the Implementation of the TRIPS.



Cairo, Egypt

Person(s) interviewed:  Angie Balata, Global Program Officer (April 2006)

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

Habitat International Coalition is an umbrella organization, with HLRN as one partner; HLRN has a coordinating office in Cairo, four other regional offices, and 450 Members around the world.  In September 2005, in Cairo, a working group on globalization and privatization within HIC was created resulting from the recognition by members that economic globalization is increasingly impacting the right to adequate housing for individuals and access to land for communities.  While a working mandate for this group has been established at the World Urban Forum, with the goal of cementing the mandate into an active plan by World Social Forum VII, the aim is to look at how real estate markets, private equity funds, real estate investment trusts, etc., are impacting services and security of tenure, etc.  Previous to this working group, HLRN was already focusing on privatization issues, under the rubric of development and human rights, most recently concentrating on the Millennium Development Goals and how to monitor MDG 7.11 ('Have achieved by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers').

HLRN is particularly focused on developing human rights tools and techniques, including a Violations Database Project (VDP)-an online database to chart violations of housing, land and infrastructure rights, with a particular section dedicated to violations (which includes resources and services) occurring  in the context of privatization.  In charting violations, the VDP will make available to users the raw information necessary in creating the link between violations at the micro level and policies and agreements, such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) under the WTO, at the macro level.  Of particular note, using documentation and publications to strengthen advocacy, HLRN's Caterpillar Campaign has brought attention to violations in Palestine, ultimately encouraging many in the Middle East to question purchases, while other HLRN members are successfully challenging Coke and water privatization in India.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

While national level members are taking up a wide variety of cases, the HLRN Cairo office is focused on the development of the Violations Database Project, as well as monitoring of Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11: "By 2020 to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers," including access to improved water and sanitation and the use of solid fuels.  Both of these efforts will involve particular attention to privatization issues and the impact of the GATS.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

HLRN has a strong knowledge of housing and land rights, as well as concurrent issues related to water and services.  HLRN has extensive experience and expertise in training on different aspects of human rights, developing advocacy strategies, fundraising, and utilizing its toolkit on monitoring housing and land rights (which also provides a valuable framework for wider human rights monitoring and documentation).  HLRN can offer assistance in lobbying and reporting, particularly in the context of UN mechanisms and the Arab League.  HLRN would also be willing to open its Database to other ESCR-Net Members.

Language(s): English; Arabic, French and Spanish; occasionally Portuguese


  • Report on Egypt 's State Responsibility to Protect the Right to Health after the Implementation of the TRIPS.



Bogota, Colombia

Person(s) interviewed: Margarita Flórez, Lawyer, and Libardo Herreño, Researcher, Law and Integration Program

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

ILSA's Law and Integration Program carries out monitoring, evaluation and analysis of the negotiations of free trade agreements in the region, assessing the impacts that these negotiations have on human rights and the environment. ILSA works on three main areas: 1) Studying the FTAs from a legal perspective, particularly focusing on mechanisms for the solution of controversies (regarding the investment chapters of many FTAs). 2) The impacts of FTAs on economic, social and cultural rights and the fulfillment of environmental legislation and 3) How the FTAs affect national legislation.  They are also carrying out work on the MDBs and in particular the IDB and how the implementation of its projects and programs creates scenarios that promote FTAs.  ILSA's work is carried out through legal actions that analyze how these agreements put at risk the primacy of human rights, contradict and violate national laws and protections, and whose implementation may lead to human rights violations.  They also work with social movements, through technical/legal assistance, educational materials, workshops and mobilizations, so that they are aware of the content of the FTAs, how their implementation may affect the population, and they carry out "popular actions" in light of the agreements' possible impact on human rights. 

ILSA has promoted a strategy of popular actions (acciones populares, constitutional recourses) to defend the collective and social rights of the citizenry as well as the jurisdictional and legislative sovereignty of the country, as the FTA between the US and Colombia would decay the constitutional order and the State would loose the power to independently determine economic and social policies.  An important achievement within this strategy was the decision of an administrative tribunal to prohibit, through a precautionary measure, the Colombian State signing onto any agreement that goes against the collective rights of the population. 

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

ILSA's work focuses on the dispute settlement body of the WTO, TRIPS (including intellectual property norms regarding patenting life forms, biodiversity, traditional knowledge and the rights of indigenous peoples), the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the FTA between Colombia and the US, investment issues, the primacy of human rights in trade agreements, the Bretton Woods institutions, and the role of the different mechanisms and bodies of the UN.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

ILSA's specializations are related to the members of the Law and Integration Program.  Margarita Flórez is a lawyer who focuses on environmental and natural resources issues; conflicts between TRIPS and norms on intellectual property as related to traditional knowledge; issues regarding large scale infrastructure projects such as the IIRSA; and advocacy and lobbying with national, regional and international bodies. Hector León Moncayo is an economist and university professor whose specializes on issues of free trade, globalization and social movements.  Sharon Pulido is an economist with experience on issues related to public debt and free trade. Angel Libardo Herreño Hernández is a lawyer who specializes in economic, social and cultural rights.

Language(s): Spanish, English and French


  • el Otro Derecho Magazine

2000 Nro. 24. La mano visible del mercado: derecho y economía.

2005 Nro. 33 Juicio al libre comercio. Aspectos jurídicos de los TLC.

2006 Nro.34. Movimientos sociales y luchas por el derecho humano al agua.

  • En Clave de Sur Collection

2002 Dezalay Ives and Bryant Garth, "La internacionalización de las luchas por el poder. La competencia entre abogados y economistas por transformar los Estados latinoamericanos", ILSA, Universidad Nacional.

2005 Portes Alejandro "El desarrollo futuro de América Latina: neoliberalismo, clases sociales y transnacionalismo.", November.

Rajagopal Balakrishnan. "El derecho internacional desde abajo: el desarrollo, los movimientos sociales y la resistencia del Tercer Mundo," May.

2004 Caldas Andressa, "La regulación jurídica del conocimiento tradicional", May.

  • Utiles Collection

Moncayo Héctor and Herreño Libardo "En legítima defensa. Acciones populares contra el TLC." September 2005, compilers.

  • Flórez, Margarita

2006 "Elementos para determinar la relación comercio y medio ambiente", in Revista Colombia Internacional, Facultad de Ciencias Políticas, Universidad los Andes,

Colombia, January.

"Protecao de conhecimientos tradicionais", Mesa 2, en As encruzilhadas das modernidades. Debate sobre biodiversidade, tecnociencias e cultura, Fernado Mathias e Henry de Novion, organizers, Documentos ISA 9.

2005 Protección del conocimiento tradicional? in Biodiversidad y conocimientos  rivais, .compilador Boaventura de Souza Santos, Instituto portugues do livro e das bibliotecas, Ministerio da Cultura y Civilizaco Brasileira, Brazil.

2004 La integración silenciosa, en Alcatemas Nro 13, ILSA Plataforma DDHH.

2003 "Decisión 391: un gran esfuerzo sin mucha aplicación" in Quem cala consente, ISA, Instituto Socioambiental, Brazil.

2002 Implementación del Convenio sobre Diversidad Biológica: por donde vamos y a qué paso? La vida en venta: transgénicos, patentes y biodiversidad, Böll Foundation.

  • Moncayo S., Héctor-León

2004 "ALCA y Derechos Humanos: dos visiones incompatibles" In the compliation with the same title Publisher by PROVEA, Caracas, Venezuela.

2004 "ALCA: el espejismo del libre comercio" Libro No. 1, Colección ALCATEMAS, ILSA, PIDHDD, Bogotá

  • Pulido R, Sharon

2005 Del libro "útiles para conocer y Actuar". Artículo: Deuda Pública en Colombia: debates, evolución e impactos.


Nairobi, Kenya

Person(s) Interviewed: Davinder Lamba, Executive Director

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

Mazingira Institute as an organization is not currently undertaking any programming or advocacy on trade and investment, although these issues overlap with their efforts.  Mazingira Institute works and publishes widely on issues related to environmental, human and peoples rights, particularly in relationship to land, housing (Mazingira is a member of the Housing and Land Rights Network-HLRN), agriculture, food security, urban development, and governance.   Davinder Lamba is the point person in Kenya for the Human Rights Caucus of the upcoming World Social Forum in Nairobi, in 2007, and trade and human rights will be one of the key themes for Caucus events.  Similarly, Davinder was a founder and active member of the International NGO Committee on Human Rights in Trade and Investment (INCHRITI), and he continues to be in dialogue with other founding members on these issues. 

INCHRITI was the first group to make linkages between human rights, trade, and investment, advocating for the primacy of human rights with governments and via UN mechanisms.  This coalition of NGOs first united against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, being negotiated in 1997.  INCHRITI was initially composed of Habitat International Coalition (HIC), People's Decade for Human Rights Education (PDHRE), The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM), Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), Youth for Unity of Voluntary Action (YUVA)-India, Center for Equality in Rights and Accommodation (CERA)-Canada, and Mazingira Institute-Kenya.  However, due to the ad hoc nature of INCHRITI, different organizations have participated at different times.

In 2001, in response to lobbying by INCHRITI, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights adopted three resolutions, including: Globalization and its Impact on the Full Enjoyment of All Human Rights (challenging IMF assertions that it was not bound by human rights standards, emphasizing the importance of human rights in trade and investment negotiations, as well as in national Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, and addressing the right to food in the context of liberalizing trade in agricultural products); the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and its impact on human rights to affordable and accessible health and education services; and the negative impacts of the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on human rights (also addressed in 2000).  INCHRITI successfully advocated for the consideration of international trade, finance and ESCR by the UN Committee on ESCR, leading to an intensive workshop organized by the Committee with the support of INCHRITI in May 2000.  Similarly, INCHRITI lobbied at the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, leading to the adoption of valuable Resolutions in 1998 and 1999.  Among others, the government of Mauritius argued for the primacy of human rights in their trade negotiations.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

Beginning in 1997, INCHRITI lobbied governments and UN bodies in successful opposition to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), and INCHRITI was actively involved in challenging WTO negotiations in Seattle in 1999. 

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

In addition to a wealth of expertise represented by its individual members, INCHRITI was particularly successful in utilizing UN mechanisms to raise human rights concerns related to trade and investment.

Language(s): English is the common working language of INCHRITI. 



Caracas, Venezuela

Person(s) interviewed: Marino Alvarado

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

While the Venezuelan government participated in the FTAA negotiations,[2] Provea carried out significant work regarding trade, investment and human rights and although recently this has lessened and changed, they are continuing their work on these issues. This has focused on educational activities with social movements and other organizations in Venezuela on the possible impacts of FTAs on human rights as well as work within the Inter-American System on Human Rights, through lobbying and hearings before the IACHR and lobbying at the General Assembly of the OAS.

In previous years, Provea organized two seminars on human rights and free trade agreements with the aim of incorporating these issues and the possible impacts of FTAs on human rights into the work of social organizations in Venezuela as well as to begin a dialogue with officials from the Venezuelan government, particularly those participating in the negotiations.  In coordination with the PIDHDD, they also lobbied the Venezuelan government so that it would present a request to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights to issue a consultative opinion regarding whether the obligations imposed on the States when they ratify free trade agreements, particularly the FTAA, go against or put into conflict the human rights obligations acquired through the American Convention on Human Rights.  Likewise, Provea participated in the hearing held before the IACHR in October 2004 on the processes of economic integration and human rights in the region.

Currently Provea is working with some of the organizations that participated in the hearing before the IACHR discussed above to provide follow-up to the hearing, particularly focusing on a report on the right of access to information within trade negotiations. Recently Venezuela declared its interest in joining MERCOSUR and now Provea is learning more about what this means for Venezuela and human rights in the country.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

Provea is working on MERCOSUR and within the Inter-American System it is looking at the right of access to information in trade negotiations.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

The Inter-American System on Human Rights.

Language(s): Spanish


  • Memoria del 5 º Seminario de Formación en Desc: "Ante el libre comercio, otra integración es posible" (2004).
  • Memoria del 4º Seminario de Formación en Desc: "ALCA y derechos humanos: dos visiones incompatibles" (2003).



Lagos, Nigeria [SERI currently does not maintain a website]

Person(s) Interviewed: Eze Onyekpere, Director

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

SERI approaches trade and investment from the human rights perspective, insisting that both must contribute to national development and to guaranteeing the right to an adequate standard of living.  SERI facilitates periodic workshops for colleagues on these issues, as well as undertaking some research.  However, SERI is primarily focused on advocacy and lobbying around trade, investment, and particularly privatization.  In addition to the oil and gas sector, SERI, working through the Privatization Observatory, has monitored and reported on the privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), including SOEs related to electricity, ports, water, etc. It has also undertaken legislative advocacy for the reform of the privatization laws. 

SERI leads the Budget Transparency Network, which champions issues of how the budget responds to the rights and needs of Nigerians. In this context, SERI analyzes the impact of trade policy on the budget and ultimately on the standard of living of the people. It is also an affiliate of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) undertaking some budget analysis as part of monitoring.

In addition to regular engagement with government officials, SERI, in collaboration with other NGOs under the umbrella of the Nigeria Trade Network, has intervened in the overall review of Nigerian trade policy, including a report titled "Gender and Poverty Audit of the Nigeria Trade Policy" in April 2005.  SERI further works with other NGOs in the Nigerian Trade Network to draft and advocate position papers for trade missions, and the official position of the Ministry of Commerce has periodically picked up recommendations while the ongoing trade review is finally seeing the link between trade and development.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

SERI has focused on renegotiation of trade agreements between the European Union and Africa (the Caribbean, and the Pacific-ACP), arguing that differentiation is key and space for unique development is necessary.  Since 2002, the EU and the ACP have been negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) to progressively comply with WTO agreements; EPAs will replace the previous system of preferential access to European markets with free trade agreements that threaten to undermine sustainable development and contribute to poverty.  SERI is committed to challenging the terms of agreements with international human rights standards, the UN CESCR Comments, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Millennium Development Goals.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

SERI has facilitated trainings on trade and its impact on national development, employment creation and development of new technology and capacity; trade and its impacts on right to an adequate standard of living (including food, water, and housing); and how people can engage on trade issues.

Language(s): English


  • Readings on Privatization, ed. Eze Onyekpere , Lagos : Socio-Economic Rights, December 2003.
  • Hardcopies of training materials and recommendations on trade-related issues.



Person(s) Interviewed: Indrani Thuraisingham, Executive Director/Secretary General (also the Deputy Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers' Associations-FOMCA)

Summary of work on trade, investment and human rights:

SEACON focuses on the right to food with emphasis on the impact of trade on small farmers' livelihoods and the right to an adequate standard of living, undertaking participatory research and advocacy in Southeast Asia.  ERA Consumer focuses on human rights, democracy, empowerment and capacity-building of grassroots communities with regards to trade and livelihoods, addressing both agricultural and consumer issues.  Focused primarily on Malaysia, ERA Consumer participates in advocacy efforts through the Federation of Malaysian Consumers' Associations-FOMCA. 

From 26-31 March 2009, SEACON attended the 29th FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, under the umbrella of AsiaDHRRA Rural Development Working Group (RDWG) in Bangkok, Thailand. The Conference was attended by sixteen civil society organizations, 5 inter-government organizations, and governments of 32 countries. Main issues discussed during the Conference were: (1) Policies, strategies and technical options for coping with water scarcity; (2) agribusiness and competitive agro-industries in the context of globalization and free trade; (3) Aid for Trade initiative and the role of FAO.

SEACON has also documented the destruction of livelihoods and productive resources through research in 8 countries on the impact of AFTA on rice farmers in ASEAN.  SEACON has also carried out The World Trade Organization Agreement on Agriculture Campaign, focusing on education workshops with NGOs and government officials that highlighted the negative impacts of the agreement.

Main agreements/issues being addressed:

Currently, SEACON is also working on the impact of TRIPs and its implications on farmers' rights in Asia, especially in relation to food sovereignty.  Similarly, SEACON is looking at bilateral agreements and regional trade agreements, including AFTA. Although they bring in capital, these agreements can also undermine food sovereignty and the livelihoods of farmers.  Of particular concern is the Malaysia-US FTA being negotiated (first round in June 2006) with no public information-apart from that provided by the US labor movement and a coalition headed by Third World Network-and a Ministry of Trade with fast track authority and nof parliamentary oversight.

Areas of Expertise/Specialization:

SEACON has strong expertise in training and documentation on the impacts of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, TRIPS, and FTAs on the right to food, food sovereignty and the livelihoods of small farmers.  ERA Consumer has created legal materials for grassroots groups and facilitated training on ESCR and intersecting issues.

Language(s): English is the common language of work for SEACON. 




[1] The democratic clause refers to the clause included in all trade and cooperation agreements signed by the European Union with third countries since 1992.  This clause, also known as the human rights clause, stipulates that human rights are an essential element of the agreement and the relationship between the States Parties to the agreement.

[2]It is important to take into consideration the unique situation experienced by Venezuela in light of President Hugo Chavez' current position regarding the FTAA and other agreements being promoted by the US in the region.  Up until 2005, Venezuela actively participated in the negotiations for the FTAA.  After this and currently, Chavez has pronounced Venezuela to be against the FTAA and other trade agreements being negotiated with the US, and rather is promoting the Bolivarian Alternative for America (ALBA) as an alternative for the region.