A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


altColombian members, Maria Alejandra Calle Saldarriaga (pictured, right), of EAFIT University, and Yadira Castillo, of Universidad de los Andes, took advantage of Vi fellowships granted by the Government of Spain to work on research projects dealing with trade and environment and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Legal specialists, the two delved into international laws affecting trade in biodiversity assets (biotrade) and human rights in extractive industries respectively.

Calle Saldarriaga, a lawyer and Assistant Professor at EAFIT,  is preparing a paper titled "The conservation of Colombian wildlife in trade and investment liberalization," as part of her PhD proposal. To this end, she worked closely with Eduardo Escobedo (UNCTAD's Biotrade Initiative) and David Vivas Eugui, both from the UNCTAD Division on International Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities.

She says biotrade is increasingly becoming a key issue in the trade liberalization process in Colombia, the world's fourth megadiversity country. As it pursues free trade agreements, most recently with the United States and the European Union, Colombia must strike a balance between economic opportunities and the need to sustainably utilize its flora and fauna assets.

"The fellowship at UNCTAD was the engine of my research," she said. "The information I was able to gather and the constant feedback of my mentor and other persons related to my research topic will allow me to write an academic paper and a Phd research proposal in the next few months."

Castillo, a research fellow who also teaches International Law, is working on a dissertation whose topic is the "Responsibility of Multinational Extractive Corporations in Human Rights Violations in International Law."

Her paper seeks to illustrate the reasons, limits and possibilities of using the framework of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) to address the issue. Her research, guided by Elisabeth Tuerk and Hamed El Kady, from UNCTAD's  Division on Investment and Enterprise, covers the perspectives of the State, the corporations and the people affected.

It intends to make a proposal that articulates both voluntary compliance and hard law, and looks into the possibility of including a liability provision in the BITs that responds to changes taking place in the relationship between human rights and foreign investment.

At a presentation of her findings, attended by Daniel Avila, Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Colombia, UNCTAD experts suggested that further research may consider the viability of using instruments available at the national level to address this particular CSR issue.