Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will reduce African states’ judgement debts, Mr Philbert Abaka Johnson, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ghana to Austria and Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations, Vienna.
This, he said, would also help African states to reduce default costs by organising their defence and written statements, technical assistance, capacity building and legal representation.
ISDS is a system through which countries can be sued by foreign investors for certain state actions affecting foreign direct investment.
Mr Johnson made this observation in his address at the second edition of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Days in Africa 2023 in Accra.
UNCITRAL is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law.
Its mandate is to remove legal obstacles to international trade by progressively modernising and harmonising trade law.
The Accra Meeting on the “Use of UNCITRAL Texts in Africa, Trends and Prospects”, was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration in collaboration with UNCITRAL.
Mr Johnson said: “Investment is one of the main forces behind global development. Most investors are now investing in emerging nations endowed with abundant natural resources in Africa.”
“Hence, the necessity for a more active and meaningful involvement of African countries in the ISDS reforms debate to ensure that any continued use of ISDS does not adversely affect the development agenda of the African states and the continent in general.”
He said African countries must move from being investment rule-takers to being part of the rule-makers to safeguard their interest.
He said the Working Group III: ISDS Reform had attracted African interest also due to its focus on ISDS and its reforms, which were of interest to African countries hit by ISDS cases.
He said ensuring that the reform being carried out in UNCITRAL was reflected coherently in the negotiations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) investment protocol might be worthy of consideration.
He said as part of UNCITRAL’s reforms in the ISDS, there was the proposed establishment of an Advisory Centre for International Investment Dispute.
He said the Center’s establishment and subsequent operations would address major international investment dispute resolution concerns, including the high legal costs, long durations, and inadequate access to legal assistance by many member states.
Madam Diana Asonaba Dapaah, the Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister for Justice, said the Accra Meeting was a momentous occasion that marks Ghana’s commitment to foster international trade laws in the Africa Region.
Adding that the theme for the Accra Meeting “Use of UNCITRAL Texts in Africa, Trends and Prospects”, underscores the importance of the UNCITRAL framework in shaping the landscape of international trade within the Africa Region.
Madam Anna Joubin-Bret, Secretary, UNCITRAL, said UNCITRAL Days, launched 10 years ago in Asia Pacific region, were expanded to Latin America and the Caribbeans in 2020, and eventually to Africa last year.
“I am glad to say that his initiative has considerably helped us to reach out to a wider audience and deepen UNCITRAL impact around the globe, something that was duly acknowledged by the Commission, that has expressed its gratitude to all organisers for hosting events in the past years.”
Mrs Jane Gasu Aheto, Director, Legal and Treaties Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, said Ghana had always believed in an open market economy that attracts strategic investors who want to operate within a win-win environment; saying “we are however, mindful that these interactions do not take place in a vacuum”.