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The adverse impacts of free trade and investment agreements: report

14 July 2015
Issued by:
The Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order
To the Human Rights Council at its 30th session


Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 18/6, 21/9, 25/15 and 27/9, the Independent Expert has endeavoured to identify obstacles to the realization of a democratic and equitable international order, including lack of transparency and accountability (A/HRC/21/45 and A/67/277), lack of genuine democratic participation in domestic and global decision-making (A/HRC/24/38), asymmetric economic, financial and trade practices (A/68/284), military expenditures (A/HRC/27/51) and denial of self-determination (A/69/272).

On 5 May 2015, the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order convened an Expert meeting to inform his report to the 30th session of the Human Rights Council.


This report addresses adverse human rights impacts of international investment agreements, bilateral investment treaties and multilateral free trade agreements on the international order, both from the procedural aspect of their elaboration, negotiation, adoption and implementation, and from the substantive side, focusing on their constitutionality and effects on democratic governance, including the exercise of the State's regulatory functions to advance the enjoyment of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

It calls for ex ante and ex post human rights, health and environmental impact assessments, and proposes a plan of action for systemic change. Because all States are bound by the Charter of the United Nations, all treaties must conform with it, in particular with Articles 1, 2, 55 and 56.

While recognizing that globalization may contribute to human rights and development, experience suggests that human rights have frequently been subordinated to dogmas of market fundamentalism with a focus on profit rather than sustainable development.