Water and sanitation services in international trade and investment law: for a holistic human rights-based approach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health. The Human Right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights. Introduction With more than 3000 International Investment Agreements (IIAs) and almost 600 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), the production of economic norms for global and regional integration has reached an unprecedented stage. As part of a response to the limited evolutions of multilateral trade negotiations conducted by the World Trade Organization (WTO), a myriad of mega-regional trade and investment agreements are currently negotiated. From the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), to the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the magnitude of these new deals is simply immense. This bewildering array of new legal instruments covers an incredibly vast legal and political landscape at the crossroads between trade, investment and essential societal concerns such as human rights, labour, health and environmental protection and, for instance, access to water and sanitation services. From ‘regulatory cooperation’ (i.e. sharing information and good practices) to a more ambitious ‘regulatory convergence’ (aiming at the production of quite similar norms), these initiatives question the very nature of regulation as an attribute of the State. So that the way in which the tension between the economic gains of a comprehensive integration and the societal implications of potential restrictions on the State’s regulatory autonomy is mediated determines the rules of the trade game but also the future of all society’s actors. Two decades after the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the massive adoption of investment treaties promoting and protecting FDI, the complexities and de facto fragmentation of today’s international economic law scene as well as the recent defiance of developing, but also developed, countries towards trade and investment instruments, and dispute settlement in particular, call for a paradigm shift, that of a reconsideration of the State’s sovereign attributes to regulate in the favour of the public interest. This change in the direction of a defragmentation/reunification and eventually consolidation of international law may come from other areas of law in direct relation to international economic transactions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Regulation of the Global Water Services Market
EditorsJulien Chaisse
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781316678442
ISBN (Print)9781107162860
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2017


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