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Letter sent to Heads of State and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of all UN Member States. Join us! Request an answer from your Government!

July 20, 1998

His Excellency,

Prime Minister of (Name of State)

Your Excellency,

We are writing this letter to call your attention to the human rights implication of international trade and investment agreements. We represent the growing coalition of human rights, environment and development NGOs that came together at the recent WTO Ministerial Conference meeting in Geneva, May 17th, 1998.

We met to analyze the proposed multi Lateral Investment (MAI) from a human rights perspective, develop strategies and consider whether and how similar issues arise in relation to WTO and other international trade and investment agreements, decisions and processes.

We are appealing to you because we are sure that you and your Government take seriously your commitments to environmental protection and respect for human rights.

We intend to draw attention to the dangers and threats to human rights and the environment posed by draft MAI, GATT/WTO agreements and other international and investment agreements. As the ill conceived draft MAI agreement has shown, there are at least 5 human rights and environment issues at stake in the multilateral trade and investment system:

1. Multilateral human rights and environmental treaties may be contradicted by international trade and investment agreements.

2. Measures to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of vulnerable groups may be challenged by the trade-investment concept of non-discrimination.

3. The human right to self determination includes the right of all peoples to determine their economic future, which may be impossible when freedom without responsibility is given to foreign investors.

4. The human right to sustainable livelihoods (to include the human rights to work, adequate housing, food education, and health) and collective survival rights (such as the human rights to development and healthy environment) may be jeopardized by the economic priorities required by trade policy.

5. Stipulated conditions favoring foreign investors may eliminate the possibility of human rights and environmental accountability of non state actors, specifically multinational enterprises.

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We believe that denying full respect to human rights conventions that your country ratified: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, International Covenant on Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Convention on the Rights of Children is not your intention. As State Party to these human rights treaties, Sweden can be counted on to act with the WTO to see that international trade and investment are regulated in compliance with these obligations.

We therefore respectfully request your Excellency to give instruction to your representatives at current and future WTO meetings to review the documents, decisions and statements that will be issued at these meetings so as to ensure that they are not in contradiction to the solemn obligations your Government has undertaken by ratifying human rights conventions.

We also hope that your representatives in all fora, where international trade and investment agreements are discussed, will take into account Sweden's commitment to respect all human rights, economic, social, cultural, civil and political, and the commitments your country made at various world summits, from Rio to Rome.

The Preamble to the Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization reiterates states' commitment to the primacy of sustainable development. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Mary Robinson, stated in the forward to the UNDP policy document, Integrating Human Rights with Sustainable Human Development: "achieving sustainable progress requires recognizing the interdependence between respect for human rights, sustainable development and democracy." Even the OECD High-Level Advisory group on working procedures, methodologies and strategic objectives to the MAI negotiation recommended addressing comprehensively the "inseparable" social and human dimension of sustainable development. Moreover, flagrant human rights violations, as well as market environments that foster systematic human rights violations, often pose severe liability risks, business risks, and reputational risks for corporations.

Representatives of NGOs signing this letter will be attending future MAI and WTO meeting and will be contacting your delegation. We hope you will instruct your representatives to take the opportunity to meet with us, so as to begin a dialogue and eventually establish fruitful cooperation between your country and the NGO advocates of human rights for the purpose of preserving our mutual interest, highlighting Sweden's commitment to human rights in the year of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.

We are informing the High Commissioner of Human Rights about this letter.

Sincerely Yours,

For the Organizing Committee:

Miloon Kothari

Shulamith Koenig

C.C. MS. Lena Hjelm, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

For more information, please contact PDHRE:
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education, 526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325; e-mail: pdhre@igc.org