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Human rights impact assessments of international trade agreements

Keynote presentation at the Austrian Scientific Foundation for International Developments
On 4th and 5th November 2013, co-director of the Centre and Academic Lead on Global Governance, Dr. James Harrison, spoke at the Austrian Scientific Foundation for International Developments (ÖFSE) in Vienna. His keynote presentation was on Human Rights Impact Assessment: Potential and Challenges in the Development Context and can be viewed on the ÖFSE’s website. He also delivered a second presentation named Human Rights Impact Assessments of Free Trade Agreements: What is the State of the Art?

These talks drew extensively upon previous published work by Dr Harrison.

Dr Harrison's keynote presentation considered:(Word Document) 

  • the rationale for thinking about Human Rights Impact Assessments in development terms,
  • where HRIAs have been used
  • the key elements in undertaking an HRIA
  • the key differences between different types of HRIAs, and
  • how to improve HRIAs through a different methodology, and institutionalising meaningful and robust HRIA proccesses

Dr Harrison's second presentation provided an overview of existing practice relating to conducting human rights impact assessments. (Word Document)

Human Rights Impact Assessment of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

In 2008-09 the Centre provided support and methodological guidance to the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CICC) and the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee on International Trade with regard to proposals for a HRIA of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Dr. Harrison produced a background paper setting out the main methodological issues in undertaking an HRIA of a trade agreement. The paper is available here. Dr.Harrison also led a number of training and capacity-building sessions for parliamentarians and civil society actors to discuss how an HRIA might properly function.

In 2011, Dr. Harrison acted as an advisor to the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the development of their methodology for their human rights reporting mechanism on the Canada-Colombia FTA. In June 2012, Dr. Harrison was asked to give evidence to the Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT) of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada in relation to the first year's human rights report. His written evidence is available here.

Scoping Study for an Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment of Ethiopian Trade Agreements

In May 2012, the Centre for Human Rights in Practice began a joint project with Mekelle University Center for Human Rights to identify the human rights and equality impacts of trade agreements in Ethiopia. The study aims to undertake a scoping study on the human rights impact of Ethiopian accession to the WTO and the Economic Partnership Agreement between African Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Union. The report is planned to be launched in Septmber 2012.

Supporting UN Institutions to Assess the Human Rights Impact of Trade and Investment Agreements

The UN Special Rapporteur on Food, Professor Olivier De Schutter, convened a meeting of experts in Geneva on 23-24 June 2010 to advance methodologies and thinking for undertaking human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) for trade and investment agreements Dr. Harrison presented the main background paper at the meeting entitled "Human Rights Impact Assessments: Reflections on Practice and Principles for Future Assessments".

To access the background paper click here. The report of the conference is available here.

Dr Harrison has since produced an expert paper for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on trade, investment and human rights to inform future impact assessment. A link to the paper will be posted here when it is published.

Expert Advice to Human Rights Impact Assessment Processes

HRIA in the Pacific Region. In the summer of 2010, the International Women's Development Agency (IWDA) and researchers from La Trobe Univeristy and the University of Melbourne undertook a 'scoping study' for a HRIA of the PACER-Plus trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Island countries. Dr James Harrison acted as an advisor to the study. The study is available here.

HRIA of the India-EU Trade Agreement. in 2011, The Catholic Development Fund, MISEREOR, and the Heinrich Boell Foundation undertook a right to food impact assessment of the proposed EU-India Free Trade Agreement. Dr. James Harrison acted as an advsor to the study. The study is available here.