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International investment is today understood as a key element of successful development policy. However, both the historical and conceptual foundations of this apparent convergence demand careful investigation. While mainstream economic thinking asserts that foreign investment is beneficial for poor countries, critics have pointed out that it can be positive or negative depending on how it is regulated. Against this debate, investment treaties are typically weighted in favour of developed states, and as a matter of international law, poorer countries have increasingly limited regulatory tools at their disposal with which to govern the operations of transnational investors within their territory. Conflicts frequently arise between the needs of local communities and international investors over access to land, resources, and water, leading to displacement, loss of livelihoods and human-rights violations. The role of the state in regulating these conflicts is often complex, and the responsibilities of large multinational corporations are unclear. Using a historically-grounded case study-based approach, this subject will provide students with an opportunity to critically examine the relationship between international investment, local communities and the state within contemporary legal and institutional development policy and practice.
Principal topics include:
- Introduction to the contested meanings of international investment, regulation and development
- The links between investment, development and regulation, examined through case studies
- An examination of the historically contested role of international law in framing the terms on which multinational corporations access resources in developing countries, including investment treaties, business and human rights, as well as older initiatives
- An examination of the role of international institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in governing investment and development
- The debate over global versus local labour standards and the dilemmas over monitoring
- The debates over ‘land grabbing’ and access to agricultural land in developing countries.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Understand and be able to critically reflect on the historical links between investment and development and their contested meanings
- Have a good knowledge of the debates over the place of law in the development process and be able to apply that knowledge to diverse bodies of practice
- Understand the practices of international economic institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization, and the positions they have taken with respect to development and investment, as well as be able to research and critically analyse those practices going forward
- Be aware of the complexities of the labour standards debate and the ‘race to the bottom’ dynamic in relation to competition for mobile international investments, and be able to investigate such practices
- Develop a critical perspective on the broad set of issues that lie at the intersection of human rights, investment and development, and be able to engage in related legal and policy analysis.
Last updated: 6 December 2019