Australian NGOs Tell World Bank Put Human Rights First and Sever Ties With Investor State Tribunal

Australian unions, fair trade advocates and environmentalist gathered today in front of the Sydney offices of the World Bank at noon on Friday to protest the Bank’s affiliation with the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a tribunal that hears corporate lawsuits seeking to bypass national courts, laws and regulations setting local standards for health, human rights and the environment.

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[Picture: Sydney Protesters Say: "No More Kangaroo Courts"]  

“The World Bank turns its back on its responsibilities when it assists corporations to sue some of the poorest people in the world for millions of dollars. This is an example yet again of the needs of greedy billionaires riding roughshot over the needs of working people, the environment and wider community needs.” said Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the TWU. "I am proud to give my support to today's protest, and I call on the new president of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, to put human rights and democracy before private greed, and to end the Bank's ties with the ICSID."

Dr. Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, Ltd. compares the ICSID process with the one Philip Morris is using to sue Australia for billions of dollars claiming future loss of profits from Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws “Companies like Philip Morris are gaming the system,” Dr. Ranald stated. “Public opposition ensured there was no investor state provision in the bi-lateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Australia. That’s why US –based company Philip Morris moved into Hong Kong to sue Australia under an obscure investment agreement with Hong Kong. Clearly, corporations are using these trade agreements to blackmail countries seeking to protect their own citizens.”

“Australia should stop funding the World Bank if it won’t cut ties to ICSID, “ said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia,. “Australia has smartened up and stopped signing trade agreements with investor state arbitration clauses. We should also drop our membership in ICSID. It’s a matter of principle.“

“The World Bank’s ICSID is allowing the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim to sue El Salvador for refusing to issue a permit to use cyanide and arsenic to mine gold in the headwaters of a river supplying the majority of its population with drinking water,” said Cam Walker spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Australia. “And the United Nations reports that el Salvador has the most vulnerable environment in the world. How does the World Bank see this as helping to alleviate poverty or promote sustainable development?”