Friday, April 27, 2018

Conference: International Investment Law and NCD Prevention

On May 10-11, 2018, the Law and NCD Unit of the University of Liverpool will host a conference on "International Investment Law and NCD Prevention." The program is here. Here's the idea:

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide. Almost three quarters of all NCD deaths, and 82% of the 16 million premature deaths, occur in low- and middle-income countries. NCDs have devastating consequences for individuals, families and communities; they threaten to overwhelm health systems; and they hinder development.

Since the first UN High Level Meeting on NCDs in 2011, the international community has acknowledged the scope of the problem and undertaken to take coordinated and coherent action to reduce the burden of NCDs. In particular, the WHO Global Action Plan on the Prevention and Control of NCDs for 2013-2020 lays down the foundation for the adoption of effective strategies intended to reduce the availability, acceptability and affordability of tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and unhealthy food, which include the adoption of marketing restrictions, labelling rules and fiscal measures. More recently, States renewed their commitment to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” and “reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030” (Sustainable Development Goal 3). In September 2018, the third UN High Level Meeting on NCDs will assess the progress that States have made towards their commitment to reduce the burden of NCDs.

Over the last thirty years, globalisation and economic liberalisation have greatly increased foreign direct investment in the tobacco, alcohol and food industries. Foreign investors enjoy certain protections under international investment agreements which empower them to bring compensation claims against host states for any measure that interferes with foreign investment. Thus, state efforts to regulate the tobacco, alcohol and food industries to prevent NCDs and promote public health could give rise to expensive arbitrations, as illustrated by recent claims challenging tobacco control legislation in Australia and Uruguay. The regulation of alcoholic beverages and unhealthy food could face similar challenges under international investment law. This raises important and timely questions about how international investment law can affect state regulatory autonomy in designing and implementing measures for preventing NCDs.

The Law & NCD Unit at the University of Liverpool is organising a one-and-a-half day conference to discuss these questions and explore the relationship between the NCD prevention policies and international investment law.