International Investment Agreements (IIAs) and the UNSDGs - Rethinking Approaches to Achieving Investment Protection and Sustainable Development in IIAs Deals in Nigeria

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Cooperating Countries: Nigeria and Austria

Coordinating Institution: University of Lagos (Nigeria), Prof. Yemi Oke, 

Partner Institution: Paris Lodron University of Salzburg (Austria)

Project duration: 1 April 2021 - 31 March 2022


The project will examine the international legal framework governing foreign investment and its im-pact on the implementation of the UNSDGs. While the UNSDGs consider foreign investment to play an important role in their implementation (UNSDG 1a, 1b, 2a, 7a, and 10b), the international legal framework governing foreign investment appears to impede rather than promote sustainable foreign investment. International Investment Agreements (IIAs) as well as the Investor-State-Dispute Settlement System (ISDS) play a controversial role in this debate and the criticism in these instruments has resulted in a world-wide IIA crisis followed by extensive discussions on IIA reform.

While African states have experienced the possible adverse effects of international investment law in several ISDS cases (cf. only Shell v Nigeria, P&ID v Nigeria; Biwater Gauff v Tanzania, Cortec v Kenya), they continue to strongly rely on foreign investment to pursue economic development (see also AU Agenda 2063) and pursue extensive reform efforts of IIAs on the national and regional level to ensure that foreign investment contributes to the implementation of the UNSDGs.

The project will examine the existing pitfalls of traditional IIA as well as the chances and risks of reformed IIAs for achieving sustainable development on the example of Nigeria as Africa’s largest Sub-Saharan economy. It will identify the impacts and short-comings of the substantive and procedural IIA rules, but also of Nigeria’s negotiating and implementing practices, on Nigeria’s sustainability policies.

The result of this research project aims at developing proposals on how to improve Nigeria’s investment policy to ensure that its international legal framework governing foreign investment is also conducive to the implementation of the UNSDGs. It will on the one hand identify substantive and procedural elements that should be included into the IIA but on the other hand also suggest improvements in the investment policy making process at the negotiating phase, at the implementing phase, and at the dispute settlement phase.