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Property in a shrinking planet: fault lines in international human rights and investment law

Lorenzo Cotula

Journal article

Long at the margins of international law, property is now among the key challenges facing international law- and decision-makers. A ‘shrinking’ planet and a polycentric international law regime provide the backdrop for contestation between different property concepts and claims.

While presenting important commonalities in legal concepts and normative content, international investment law and international human rights law protect different and possibly competing rights, reflect different balances of commercial and non-commercial considerations, and embody different standards of legal protection. As the frontiers of natural resource extraction expand, natural resource investments can bring different property concepts and claims directly into tension.

In this context, the articulation between investment law and human rights law influences the ways in which international law mediates competition for the world’s natural resources, redefining the balance between public and private interests and reshaping spaces for the lawful exercise of state sovereignty.

This paper has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.

Publication information

  • External: X00134
  • Published: May 2015 - Cambridge Journals
  • Theme: Law
  • Source pub: International Journal of Law in Context
  • Journal ref: Volume 11 / Special Issue 02 / June 2015, pp 113 - 134
  • Language: English

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Lorenzo Cotula (2015). Property in a shrinking planet: fault lines in international human rights and investment law. International Journal of Law in Context, 11, pp 113-134 doi:10.1017/ S1744552315000026

Project information

International treaties, national laws and transnational contracts define the terms of an investment and the distribution of its costs and benefits. To promote inclusive sustainable development, IIED works with partners to rethink these legal documents and the process through which they are formulated.

More at www.iied.org:
Rethinking investment treaties, laws and contracts