630 civil society groups sound alarm over wave of Covid-19 claims in ‘corporate courts’
Groups in more than 90 countries warn ISDS system could be used to claim billions from governments over pandemic protections
Countries could be facing a wave of cases from transnational corporations suing governments over actions taken to respond to the Covid pandemic using a system known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. 630 organisations from across the world, representing hundreds of millions of people, are calling on governments in an open letter  to urgently take action to shut down this threat.
ISDS is written into many trade and investment agreements. It allows foreign investors to sue governments in secretive tribunals outside of the national legal system for amounts far higher than are likely to be available to them in domestic courts.
Cases could arise from actions that many governments have taken to save lives, stem the pandemic, protect jobs, counter economic disaster and ensure peoples’ basic needs are met. Threats of cases have already been made in Peru over the suspension of charging on toll roads, and law firms are actively advising corporations of the options open to them.
The organisations are calling on governments to urgently take practical steps around restricting and suspending the use of ISDS over the pandemic, as well as putting an end to the risks of ISDS forever.
The organisations signing the open letter include:
- international and regional union confederations including the International Trade Union Confederation, Public Services International, IndustriALL, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, and the IUF.
- global health networks such as the Baby Milk Action and IBFAN, the Peoples’ Health Movement, Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition
- other international groups such as Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, the European Environmental Bureau, the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development and the Arab NGO Network for Development
- [list examples of organisations signing from your country]
1 The letter with the full list of signatures is at https://wp.me/P6NxJb-1tc