A "SELF-SERVING" trade agreement between the British and
Colombian governments could worsen the human-rights situation in
Colombia, the House of Lords was warned last month.
The Bilateral Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of
Investments between the United Kingdom and Colombia, drawn up four
years ago, was finally ratified in the House of Commons on 10 July.
It was ratified by the Colombian government last year.
It offers increased protection to UK investors in Colombia by
giving them recourse to international arbitration should disputes
arise, through an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The UK
is the second-largest foreign investor in Colombia, much of the
money being invested in the mining sector.
On 30 July, a Labour spokesman on trade, Lord Stevenson of
Balmacara, tabled a debate in the House of Lords about the
agreement, warning that its balance might be wrong. The treaty also
failed to mention the responsibility of businesses to respect human
rights, he said.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary
Friends of CAFOD, argued that the treaty was "self-serving", and
could worsen the situation of human-rights' defenders. He drew
attention to the Colombian government's commitment to restore land
to displaced people (Features, 9 May),
questioning whether this would be undermined by the interests of
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, also raised concern
about the restoration of land, and called for a monitoring system
to ensure that human rights were respected.
Charities are alarmed by the agreement. A coalition that
includes Christian Aid, CAFOD, and Oxfam, ABColombia, issued a
statement last month warning that "The UK has placed itself in the
incongruous position of committing to support implementation of the
Victims and Land Restitution Law, whilst at the same time opening
avenues to challenge its implementation through unqualified ISDS
proceedings in the treaty."
In the House of Lords, the Trade Minister, Lord Livingston of
Parkhead, said that fears about the treaty were "exaggerated", and
that it did not pose a threat to Colombia's land-restitution