CELA Annual Report, 2005 - excerpted article

Acting Globally: CELA's International Programme

Trade and Environment
CELA has long recognized the environmental implications of international trade and investments, and related institutions of national and global governance. The overall goal in addressing these issues is to protect the environment and human health in international law through the development of accountable, participatory sustainable global governance.  To achieve this goal, CELA works with many governmental and non-governmental organizations world-wide to influence trade negotiations; reform and strengthen the United Nations; and expand and strengthen international environmental and health laws.

Research and Advocacy for Reform
In the area of research and advocacy for law and institutional reform, CELA has conducted globally significant work through the Trade and Investment Research Project (TIRP). For example, in addressing negotiations for the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Agreement on Trade and Services, CELA has analyzed this agreement’s potential impacts on services related to the environment (water, wastewater, solid waste, transport) and governments’ right to regulate.

In addition, CELA’s expertise is increasingly sought by international institutions, including the WTO, the International Labour Organization’s World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, the United Nations Development Program, and the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC established under NAFTA). Strategic attention to the CEC occurred through participation in its second Symposium on the Environmental Effects of Trade in Mexico City, including organizing and chairing the first panel at a CEC meeting on aboriginal rights in the Americas, and contributing to the CEC Joint Public Advisory Committee’s workshop on NAFTA Chapter 11. Domestically, CELA advises the federal and provincial governments on trade and investment policy, investment agreements and the Biosafety Protocol. This advice has extended to other governments, including Canadian provinces, Brazil, Morocco, Finland and Tanzania, and through advice to the Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy, proposing reforms to international environmental institutions and laws.

Seeking Greater Transparency
Advocacy on trade issues often has to do with ensuring increased transparency in domestic and international trade policy-making, arbitration disputes, and negotiation. CELA’s work has contributed to significant change in trade dispute panels, investment arbitration, and public access to trade agreement negotiating texts. For example, the civil society interventions on NAFTA Chapter 11 investor-state disputes have led to the removal of the previous secrecy provisions, so that effective transparency now exists, with public access to documentation and observation of the disputes.

Community Organizing, Outreach and Providing Strategic Advice
CELA’s trade networks continue to diversify, including human rights activists, through our arguments for an international human right to a safe environment and for constraints on trade law to enable achievement of human rights, such as those specified in the Millennium Development Goals.  New contacts have been forged with the provision of advice to environmental Law Centres in Mexico, Chile and Argentina. With many other partners, CELA undertook effective intervention in negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, via research and monitoring of the FTAA negotiations, and working on the technical team of the Hemispheric Social Alliance to produce “Alternatives for the Americas.” Staff members have conducted numerous public education seminars on trade law in relation to water, intellectual property, women’s equality, the NAFTA investment chapter, mining and local development as well as a public forum on the patenting of life forms and implications for public health and the advancement of science.

Extending also into CELA’s casework, the international programme participated in the effective intervention in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Harvard Oncomouse case, representing a coalition of environmental and health groups, successfully opposing patents on higher life forms, due to impacts on science, the environment, and health. 

Canadian Mining Investments Abroad
In collaboration with counterparts in Latin America and Canada, CELA has been involved in a number of projects to protect the environment and human health in communities impacted by mining investments.

For example, in a project with Cooperacción, a large non-governmental organization in Peru, CELA was able to direct funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) towards researching health and environmental impacts of the La Oroya lead smelter. This work has resulted in a wide range of possible interventions although their implementation remains very challenging. The work has helped to confirm the need for change in La Oroya but the necessary social consensus to begin addressing this child health emergency remains elusive. More successful has been the support provided to communities in Tambogrande, Peru and Esquel, Argentina which were able to resist questionable mine proposals and Aysen, Chile which was able to fend off Noranda's Alymsa aluminum project. Staff have provided advice to the communities of the Intag region of Ecuador who are opposing attempts by a recently incorporated BC company to develop a mine in the cloud forest of Ecuador. In Canada, expertise in mining issues has been focused on Environment Canada's Base Metals Smelting Group, working with counterparts in the Canadian Environment Network and the union movement to pressure for meaningful emission reduction targets for some of Canada's largest point sources of SO2 emissions.