Most of the commercial treaties signed between countries contains provisions for ISDS (Investor- State Dispute Settlement), the legal mechanism granting companies the right to sue States before an arbitral tribunal. Democratic decisions can be second-guessed by private tribunals.
Among the 700 registered cases, 80% were initiated between 2003 and 2015. A true arbitration industry arose as corporate lawyers discoverd the potential of such treaties. Low-income countries owe billions of dollars to private corporations after tribunals’ verdict. Even if the case is concluded in favor of the State, it would still have to pay an average of $8 millions in legal costs.
To exemplify the problematic I focused on three relevant dispute cases dealing with access to water in El Salvador, metallurgical industry in Peru, and waste management in Egypt.
I wanted to confront through photographs two opposite worlds that never directly face each other but that influence each other: the world of international arbitrators, and the social background of a country involved. I wanted to highlight how the democratic process is denied when investors rights become a priority over the public interest.