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Asia FDI conference, Hong Kong
Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) can bring great benefits to countries, but also carry unintended consequences. With Asean Economic Integration, the question of the regulation of FDI in order to make sure investments contribute to sustainable development is becoming more acute. A conference was co-organized by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Oxfam HK and the Columbia Center on Responsible Investment (http://webapp1.law.cuhk.edu.hk/2015conference/1105/conf/) on the 5 and 6th of November 2015. The conference was held to address the issue of both the measures necessary to encourage FDI, while also looking at what measures must be taken to regulate and control FDI in order to make sure investments contribute to harmonious and sustainable development of the host countries. This conference was attended by lawyers and jurists, economists from ASEAN secretariat, Asian Development Bank, European Union, Civil Society Organisations and researchers, including from China. MRLG was represented by Deputy Team Leader, Dr Christian Castellanet, who presented on the “The impacts of FDI on small holder tenure security in the Mekong Region –The need for strong safeguards based on the VGGT and the recognition of customary tenure“. He stressed that millions of farmers are at risk of losing their access to land and natural resources if the flow of FDI increases both in agriculture and in large infrastructures project without proper safeguards and monitoring. There is a need for formal integration of standards, as outlined in the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGTs) through investment policies and instruments within ASEAN. There is a call for such standards to include the recognition of customary tenure, and the use of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) especially when farmers are at risk to be displaced by investments.
Other presentations on this topic were made by Dr Silinthone, from the National University of Laos, on the impact of Chinese investments in Northern Laos, and from Andre Wells Dang, of Oxfam Vietnam, on the impact of Vietnamese investments in Cambodia and Laos. A lively debate was then organized on “who should be responsible to make sure sustainable investments happen in the region? The private sector, host countries, or originating countries?” The issues discussed are very present and require the attention of policy makers to ensure fast and rapid investment growth in the region can have positive and long term benefits for all three pillars of development: economic, social and environmental.