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On the Changing Structure of International Investment Law: The Human Right to Water and ICSID Arbitration

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image of International Community Law Review

Water is the world’s third largest industry after oil and energy power. Although clean drinking water and sanitation are necessary for the health and development of individuals and communities, even today, billions of people lack access to either. In response to these concerns, the international community has set a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of providing, by 2015, clean water and improved sanitation to at least half of the people worldwide who now lack these services. Water is treated both as a public good and an economic good. In the last decade, we have witnessed the commoditisation through privatization and liberalisation of an essential good for each individual’s life. Transnational corporations may encounter water issues in at least three different contexts: a) as enablers of access to water; b) as providers or distributors of water and c) as a user or consumer of water. Many initiatives have been developed within the United Nations such as the Global Compact and the appointment of both an independent expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation and a Special Representative of the Secretary General on business and human rights. Both of them are mainstreaming human rights in the business sector reconciling different forms of regulations. The right to water has come into discussion in a number of ICSID arbitrations and other cases are still pending. The purpose of this article is to discuss the advancement of the thinking in this field so that it could be applied in arbitration practice.

Affiliations: 1: University Cà Foscari, European Inter-University Center for Human Rights and Democratisation Venice Italy


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