Nomination Period Opens for Second Year of Ruderman Best in Business Award

BOSTON, MA—(Marketwired – March 31, 2016) –  The Ruderman Family Foundation and The Jewish Week Media Group has opened the nomination period for the second year of the Ruderman Best in Business Award, recognizing exemplary businesses that have demonstrated a history of employing people with disabilities, training and supporting them and developing innovative approaches to maximizing employee's abilities.

Last year marked the inaugural year of the award, highlighting businesses selected through a national nomination and review process by judges from the business and disability communities, including Richard E. Marriott, Chairman of Host Hotels & Resorts and the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. This year, 18 businesses from the United States and Canada will be awarded.

“People with disabilities are the largest minority in our country, yet they remain largely segregated from our society and unemployed at the rate of seventy percent. A decent society would not stand for this injustice and therefore the Ruderman Family Foundation in partnership with The Jewish Week has chosen to recognize those business leaders who have taken action against injustice and excelled in including people with disabilities in their workforce,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “I believe these businesses will set the standard for all businesses to make it a priority to hire people with disabilities.”

The Ruderman Best in Business initiative will raise awareness about the benefits of inclusive hiring for both employees and employers. Whether the company is a Fortune 500 company or a grassroots local business, the recognition will showcase businesses that have made an effort working toward inclusion.

A few winners from last year include: Wegmens Food Market in Rochester, NY; Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, FL; ULTRA Testing LLC in New York; and [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ.

The winners of the award will be featured in a special supplement in The Jewish Week's print and online editions due out September 15 of this year, highlighting the ever–important work of each.

Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week, praised Ruderman and his Foundation for initiating the project and noted that The Jewish Week was proud to be associated with shedding light on an important issue in the community. “We believe that awareness is the first step toward empathy and positive action,” he said.

For more information about the Ruderman Best in Business Awards and to nominate a business, please visit www.thejewishweek.com/bibawards. Nominations will be accepted through May 25, 2016.

About the Ruderman Family Foundation:

The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community.

Guided by our Jewish values, we support effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in our core areas of interest: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community; fostering a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders; and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide.

The Foundation provides funding, leadership, expertise and insight in both the U.S. and Israel, with offices in both countries. For more information: www.rudermanfoundation.org

About The Jewish Week:

The New York Jewish Week covers local, national and international news and features, including “The New Normal: Blogging Disability,” an innovative blog bringing important voices on inclusion and the Jewish community to thousands of readers each week. “The New Normal” bloggers include people with disabilities, their family members, professionals in the disabilities field and community members who are passionate about inclusion and educating the larger Jewish community about the importance of inclusion.

Envision Solar Announces Record Revenues in 2015 With Positive Gross Margins in the Fourth Quarter

SAN DIEGO, CA—(Marketwired – March 31, 2016) –
Envision Solar International, Inc., (OTCQB: EVSI) (“Envision Solar,” or the “Company”), the leading renewable energy, media and branding and EV charging product company, released 2015 financial results on March 30, 2016.

For the year ended December 31, 2015, the Company's revenues were $2,642,207 compared to $1,033,438 for the same period in 2014. Revenues earned in the period were primarily earned from the production and delivery of the Company's EV ARC™ products. A significant portion of 2015 revenues were derived from sales to Google and the State of California. Management believes that the Company can maintain the growth trend in revenues, while reducing costs to produce and deliver the products.

“The team is executing and our strategic plan is bearing fruit,” said Desmond Wheatley, CEO of Envision Solar. “It's pretty simple — sales lead to more sales and higher volumes lead to increased efficiency and reduced costs. We are targeting rapid growth verticals with unique products, which deliver real value both in the US and overseas. I am confident that we will continue to experience growth and I believe that it will accelerate as we break new barriers such as our recently announced overseas delivery.”

About Envision Solar International, Inc.

Envision Solar designs, manufactures and deploys unique, renewably energized, EV charging and media and branding systems. The company's products include the patented EV ARC™ and Solar Tree® product lines. All of the Company's products can be enhanced with EnvisionTrak™ patented solar tracking, ARC Technology™ energy storage, SunCharge™ Electric Vehicle Charging Stations and digital advertising packages. 

Based in San Diego, the company integrates the highest quality components into its Made in America products. Envision Solar is listed on the OTC Bulletin Board under the symbol [EVSI]. For more information, visit www.envisionsolar.com or call 866–746–0514.

Forward–Looking Statements 

This Press Release may contain forward–looking statements regarding future events or our expected future results that are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties. All statements in this Report other than statements of historical facts are forward looking statements. Forward looking statements are generally accompanied by terms or phrases such as “estimate,” “project,” “predict,” “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “target,” “plan,” “intend,” “seek,” “goal,” “will,” “should,” “may,” or other words and similar expressions that convey the uncertainty of future events or results. Statements contemplating or making assumptions regarding actual or potential sales, market size and demand, prospective business contracts, customer orders, trends or operating results also constitute forward looking statements. Our actual results may differ substantially from those indicated in forward looking statements because our business is subject to significant economic, competitive, regulatory, business and industry risks which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond our control. Our operating results, financial condition and business performance may be adversely affected by a general decline in the economy, unavailability of capital or financing for our prospective customers to purchase products and services from us, competition, changes in regulations, a decline in the demand for solar energy, a lack of profitability, a decline in our stock price, and other risks. We may not have adequate capital, financing or cash flow to sustain our business or implement our business plans. Current results and trends are not necessarily indicative of future results that we may achieve.

Excellon Announces $3,000,000 Investment by Eric Sprott

TORONTO, ON—(Marketwired – March 31, 2016) –
Excellon Resources Inc.
(TSX: EXN)
(OTC: EXLLF) (“Excellon” or the “Company”), Mexico's highest grade silver producer, is pleased to announce a non–brokered equity private placement (“the Financing”) in the Company by Eric Sprott for gross proceeds of C$3,000,000 through the issuance of 6,666,667 units (each a “Unit”) at a price of $0.45 per unit. Each Unit will consist of one common share and one half–share purchase warrant of the Company (“Warrant”). Each full Warrant will entitle the holder to purchase one additional common share of the Company at a price of $0.65 per share for a period of 24 months from the closing date.

The proceeds from the Financing will be used in the ongoing implementation of the previously announced Optimization Plan at the Platosa Mine (see press release dated November 2, 2015) and for general corporate purposes. Phase II of the Optimization Plan is expected to commence in early April with the drilling of primary dewatering wells.

A finder's fee of $60,000 was paid in respect of the investment. The Common Shares issued pursuant to the Financing or the subsequent exercise of the Warrants shall be subject to a four–month hold period from the closing date of the Financing in accordance with applicable securities legislation.

The closing of the Financing is expected to occur on or before April 8, 2016 and is subject to the completion of formal documentation and receipt of regulatory approvals, including the approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

About Excellon

Excellon's 100%–owned Platosa Mine in Durango is Mexico's highest grade silver mine, with lead and zinc by–products historically making it one of the lowest cash cost silver mines in the country. The Company is positioning itself to capitalize on undervalued projects by focusing on increasing La Platosa's profitable silver production and near–term mineable resources.

Additional details on the La Platosa Mine and the rest of Excellon's exploration properties are available at www.excellonresources.com.

Forward–Looking Statements

The Toronto Stock Exchange has not reviewed and does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of the content of this Press Release, which has been prepared by management. This press release contains forward–looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 27E of the Exchange Act. Such statements include, without limitation, statements regarding the future results of operations, performance and achievements of the Company, including potential property acquisitions, the timing, content, cost and results of 
proposed work programs, the discovery and delineation of mineral deposits/resources/reserves, geological interpretations, proposed production rates, potential mineral recovery processes and rates, business and financing plans, business trends and future operating revenues. Although the Company believes that such statements are reasonable, it can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Forward– looking statements are typically identified by words such as: believe, expect, anticipate, intend, estimate, postulate and similar expressions, or are those, which, by their nature, refer to future events. The Company cautions investors that any forward–looking statements by the Company are not guarantees of future results or performance, and that actual results may differ materially from those in forward looking statements as a result of various factors, including, but not limited to, variations in the nature, quality and quantity of any mineral deposits that may be located, significant downward variations in the market price of any minerals produced [particularly silver], the Company's inability to obtain any necessary permits, consents or authorizations required for its activities, to produce minerals from its properties successfully or profitably, to continue its projected growth, to raise the necessary capital or to be fully able to implement its business strategies. All of the Company's public disclosure filings may be accessed via www.sedar.com and readers are urged to review these materials, including the technical reports filed with respect to the Company's mineral properties, and particularly the July 9, 2015 NI 43–101–compliant technical report prepared by Roscoe Postle Associates Inc. with respect to the Platosa Property. This press release is not, and is not to be construed in any way as, an offer to buy or sell securities in the United States.

Benefits of Backpack Biogas

Billions of dollars of aid has been pumped into Africa. Yet effective change too often remains an elusive outcome, leading to a vicious cycle: more needs, more aid but still little change. How to resolve this seemingly intractable dilemma? Biogas could be one part of the solution. (B)energy is a social business venture offering a […]

Study Finds Adaptive IGRT for Bladder Preservation Clinically Feasible, Shows Good Outcomes

FAIRFAX, VA—(Marketwired – March 29, 2016) – A prospective study examining a trimodality treatment approach in localized bladder cancer cases using adaptive image–guided, intensity–modulated radiation therapy (IG–IMRT) found that the bladder preservation rate at three years was 83 percent.

Approximately 150,000 people worldwide die every year as a result of urinary bladder cancer. Patients with moderately advanced bladder cancer typically undergo surgery with removal of the bladder resulting in the use of an external urine bag. The trimodality plan, which consists of the transurethral resection of the bladder tumor (TURBT), IG–IMRT and chemotherapy, was developed as a bladder conservation protocol to preserve bladder function with good oncological outcomes. 

“Adaptive IGRT [with] plan–of–the–day approach for bladder preservation is clinically feasible, with good oncological outcomes and low rates of acute and late toxicities. Dose escalation is safe and possibly improves outcomes in bladder preservation,” said Vedang Murthy, MD, radiation oncology, Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, India and lead author of the study, “Clinical Outcomes With Dose–Escalated Adaptive Radiation Therapy for Urinary Bladder Cancer: A Prospective Study,” published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics (Red Journal).

“With adaptive IGRT, increasing the dose becomes possible, and serious side effects may be kept low, ensuring a good quality of life for our patients,” Dr. Murthy said.

The study looked at 44 patients between August 2008 and August 2014. Thirty nine (88 percent) patients were male and five (11 percent) were female, ranging in ages from 55 to 72. Eighty–eight percent of patients had stage 2 disease. Patients underwent maximal safe resection of bladder tumor and concurrent platinum–based chemotherapy, and those with large tumors were offered induction chemotherapy.

RT planning was done using either three (n=34) or six (n=10) non–concentrically grown planning target volumes (PTV). Patients received 64 Gy in 32 fractions to the whole bladder and 55 Gy to the pelvic nodes. If appropriate, they received a simultaneous integrated boost to the tumor bed to 68 Gy. Daily megavoltage imaging was used to find the most appropriate PTV encompassing bladder for the particular day with the plan–of–the–day approach.

At six to ten weeks post–treatment, all patients had a complete response. The study had a median follow–up of 30 months. Overall survival at the last follow up was 77 percent (34 patients). Among those who died, three died from comorbidities and were disease free at the time of death.

The three–year locoregional control (LRC), disease–free survival and overall survival (OS) rates were 78 percent, 66 percent and 67 percent, respectively. Rates of LRC and OS were better in patients who received dose escalation. Acute and late Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) grade 3 genitourinary toxicity was seen in five (11 percent) and two (four percent) patients, respectively. No acute or late RTOG grade 3 or higher gastrointestinal toxicity occurred.

“Adaptive RT (ART) further helps in reduction of doses to normal tissues and improves accuracy of delivery,” Dr. Murthy said. “These procedures, in theory, should result in less acute and late toxicity, while allowing for dose escalation to gross tumor to improve outcomes.”

“Although a number of investigators have conceived and developed a variety of ART techniques, there are few clinical outcome data to validate this dosimetric concept. The present proof–of–concept prospective study was conducted with the aim of establishing the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of IG–IMRT–based ART in clinical practice,” he said.

More follow–up with larger groups of patients is needed to establish the novel technique as the standard, Dr. Murthy said, but results from the study have shown the possibilities of ART in bladder cancer patients.

“These results provide proof of concept of using adaptive IGRT in the clinic,” Dr. Murthy said. “This will hopefully lead to more and more suitable patients undergoing bladder preservation around the world.”

For more information, contact ASTRO's Press Office at press@astro.org. For the study abstract, visit www.redjournal.org/article/S0360–3016(15)03321–0/abstract. For more information about
the Red Journal, visit www.redjournal.org. 

ABOUT ASTRO

ASTRO is the premier radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals that specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through professional education and training, support for clinical practice and health policy standards, advancement of science and research, and advocacy. ASTRO publishes three medical journals, International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics (www.redjournal.org), Practical Radiation Oncology (www.practicalradonc.org) and Advances in Radiation Oncology (www.advancesradonc.org); developed and maintains an extensive patient website, RT Answers (www.rtanswers.org); and created the Radiation Oncology Institute (www.roinstitute.org), a nonprofit foundation to support research and education efforts around the world that enhance and confirm the critical role of radiation therapy in improving cancer treatment. To learn more about ASTRO, visit www.astro.org.

Returning to Tradition: Honoring Traditional Tobacco and Health Serve as Big Motivators for Some Native Americans to Quit Commercial Tobacco

SAN DIEGO, CA—(Marketwired – March 28, 2016) – A little over a year ago, Pernell–Thomas Begay made a New Year's resolution to stop smoking cigarettes.

“I was 29 at the time and I thought, 'Wow, I'm going to be 30,' so definitely it was kind of an age factor and knowing full well that [smoking] was bad for you,” he remembers.

Begay, a Navajo college student who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, began smoking nine years ago after a friend offered him a cigarette.

After one previous attempt to quit, he decided it was time to talk with his dad about his habit; that conversation that finally put things into perspective.

“He just talked to me about how tobacco is sacred for the Navajo and that it's abused nowadays, and we were just talking about how it was used as medicine, [for] ceremonial purposes and how it was used as payment to tribal medicine men,” Begay said. “Taking that point of view — that mindset — seeing the tobacco as sacred and something that shouldn't be abused, it kind of helped me more not to smoke cigarettes.”

His dad helped in other ways, too, serving as the foundation for what he calls his 'support network,' including his sister, elders and other people in the community who encouraged him to quit smoking for good.

For generations, Native Americans have grown and used traditional tobacco for medicinal, religious and ceremonial purposes. An old Lakota tradition says the spirits enjoy the smell of traditional tobacco smoke. Another Blackfeet story says tobacco calms the spirit and brings peace, health and unity.

Kathy Wilcutts is a Lakota sacred pipe cultural educator with the Southern California American Indian Resource Center (SCAIR). She said the connection Native Americans have with tobacco is the same connection they have to Mother Earth — and one of the biggest reasons tobacco has played a part of ceremonies for so long.

“To me, [traditional tobacco] is energy — energy that we can utilize when we use those sacred plants,” Wilcutts said.

But over the years, traditional tobacco has become harder to come by in parts of Indian Country, especially for those living in urban areas, according to Dana Kingfisher, tobacco program coordinator at the Missoula Urban Indian Health Center and a member of the Blackfeet Nation.

She said this lack of access forces some Native Americans to substitute with commercial cigarettes.

This switch–up is sending mixed signals about the dangers of commercial tobacco to Native communities, said Diana Bigby, another member of the Blackfeet Nation and program manager of the Tobacco Use Prevention Program in Montana's Fort Belknap Indian Community.

“There's a specific purpose for traditional tobacco — it's for prayers, for offerings, to honor somebody and positive things like that,” Bigby said. “Then there's commercial tobacco, where there's a lot of negative effects on your health, the environment, so be conscious of the differences between the two.”

Instead of offering commercial cigarettes, Wilcutts suggests using other natural elements like dried flowers, cedar and sage, if traditional tobacco is unavailable.

What matters, she said, is the spiritual connection one makes with the plants.

'It's never too late'

Commercial tobacco use isn't anything new in Indian Country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indians and Alaskan Natives have the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking compared to all other U.S. groups, but more than half say they want to quit.

Judy Krejce, an Ojibwe from Minnesota's White Earth Reservation, had her first cigarette when she was 12 years old. Both of her parents smoked, as well as most of her siblings.

Krejce attempted to quit smoking cigarettes 25 years ago, but eventually she gave in to the temptation to continue the habit.

Determined, she quit again last summer. Like Begay, she wanted to respect the spiritual connection with tobacco and something else: herself.

“I wanted to quit because I was starting to get worried about my health,” said Krejce, now 62 and smoke–free. “I didn't want to go end up on oxygen.”

It's no secret that commercial tobacco can lead to severe respiratory problems like asthma and lung disease, but it can also lead to heart disease, cancer, and increased risk and complications of diabetes and stroke.

From health to spirituality, to family and respect, there are many motivators inspiring Native people to kick the habit. But despite the increased awareness of the health impact of smoking cigarettes, commercial tobacco use continues to be one of the leading factors in health problems facing Native Americans today.

Krejce said the first key to quitting smoking is the smoker acknowledging they are mentally ready to overcome the temptation and then allowing that knowledge to keep them motivated.

“Today when I think about it, and I do — I still think about having a cigarette once in a while, once a day probably — it doesn't linger, I don't let it linger,” Krejce said. “I just go, 'Remember why you want to quit,' and then it's gone.”

Begay, a former high school cross country athlete, started running again after he quit, and says that keeps him motivated to stay smoke–free.

“Here in Albuquerque, I've ran three or four 5K races, so it's just looking at my next race and improving my time for the next 5K, and [I do] simple exercises when I get a craving,” Begay said.

Bigby said running and other exercises can help recent smokers stay motivated. She also suggests smelling cinnamon sticks — not using e–cigarettes — to help stave off cravings.

Research by the University of California, San Francisco showed electronic cigarettes are not effective in helping adults to quit smoking. In fact, the study found smokers were 28 percent less likely to stop smoking when using e–cigarettes as an alternative.

Julie DePhilippis is an Aleutian youth coordinator for SCAIR's tobacco use prevention education program. While she works primarily with Native youth, she said no matter what age, it's always worth trying to quit — especially for those concerned about their health.

“What's really amazing is your body repairs [its] self over time,” DePhilippis said. “I tell participants… 'If you quit now, you're less likely to get that stroke from smoking and other stuff as well.' It's never too late. It's pretty amazing what your body can do.”

Her advice for quitting? “Stay busy,” she said.

Chewing gum, eating hard candy, or exercising to get a boost of feel–good adrenaline can all be effective in place of smoking commercial tobacco or e–cigarettes.

“Try to find something you like to do, even if it's like 30 minutes every other day,” DePhilippis added. “Stick to it and do it.”

This story was created with support from the

American Indian Cancer Foundation

to the Native Health News Alliance. 

NHNA creates shared health coverage for American Indian communities at no cost. Registered users can download additional print, web and audio content at http://www.nativehealthnews.com and publish as is or add their own reporting, highlighting important issues within the local Native community. NHNA services are free to all those who think good journalism has a positive impact in the lives of all of our readers, listeners, and viewers.

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The Rise of Investor-State Dispute Settlement in the Extractive Sectors

Kinda Mohamadieh is a Research Associate and Daniel Uribe is a Visiting Researcher at the South Centre in Geneva.

This column is based on the research paper posted on the South Centre’s website at: http://www.southcentre.int/research-paper-65-february-2016

By Kinda Mohamadieh and Daniel Uribe
GENEVA, Mar 28 2016 (IPS)

African countries have been active in concluding international investment treaties. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as of end 2013, 793 bilateral investment treaties (BITs) have been concluded by African countries, representing 27% of the total number of (BITs) worldwide.

Kinda Mohamadieh

Kinda Mohamadieh

UNCTAD reports as well that several African countries are actively negotiating additional agreements. For example: the Southern African Customs Union is negotiating with India and the East African Community, including Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, are in discussions with the United States.

Moreover, African countries are increasingly subject to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) cases, including claims that challenge the regulatory actions of host countries in a wide range of areas, including public services and race relations. Out of all cases registered under the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 16% of these cases. In 2014, cases against Sub-Saharan Africa amounted to 20% of the overall number of new cases brought under ICSID during that year.

Daniel Uribe

Daniel Uribe

At the same time, African States have developed the Africa Mining Vision, which is aimed at introducing policy and regulatory frameworks intended to maximize the development of the region through the use of natural resources as catalyst for industrial development in order to diversify the economy. Africa is one of the most important producers of mineral commodities; however most of the minerals are exported in raw form (ores concentrates or metals).

In response, the Africa Mining Vision is intended to promote added-value mechanisms within the region with a view to fully benefiting from the potential of mining. The approach reflected in the Africa Mining Vision is similar to policies several other developing countries have been considering in order to increase their participation on strategic sectors and enhance benefits from resource wealth in order to serve development and industrialization objectives. For example, several Latin American countries, including Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, have applied active policies to regain the States policy space to develop, plan, regulate and actively participate in strategic sectors such as mining, water, energy and telecommunication in order to guarantee the use of natural resources for an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development of the State.

Since 2006, several African countries, including Ghana, Congo DR, Zambia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar have taken actions in terms of regulatory or institutional changes, including amending laws or initiating the renegotiation of contracts with mining firms or indicated an intention to take one or both steps[1]. Graham points out as well that a number of countries are debating approaches to the conception of domestic/local content within the context of the ‘Africa Mining Vision’.

In the case of African countries, similar to other developing countries, the expansion of international investment agreements could carry significant risks to policy space and policy tools necessary for industrialization and development. In the case of African countries, this implies risks to the potential use of sectoral policies, such as policies in the extractive industries and the Africa Mining Vision, in order to support and promote African countries’ industrialization objectives.

Much of the recent debate and controversy in regard to the international investment protection regime have revolved around their implications on policy space that developing countries need to promote development. The rising number of ISDS cases revealed how the rules established under international investment agreements, and the way they have been expansively interpreted by private investment arbitrators, encroach on government’s ability to regulate in the public interest.

The majority of the ISDS cases registered at ICSID are in the gas, oil, and mining sector; out of all the ISDS cases registered at ICSID until 2014, 26% were concentrated in the oil, gas, and mining sectors. This figure is 35% for the year 2014 alone. By contrast, in the year 2000, there were only three pending ICSID cases related to oil, mining, or gas[2].Through resorting to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, investors are challenging a broad range of government measures, not only challenging outright expropriation. Investors brought cases in relation to revocations of licenses (e.g., in mining, telecommunications, tourism), alleged breaches of investment contracts, alleged irregularities in public tenders, changes to domestic regulatory frameworks (gas, nuclear energy, marketing of gold, currency regulations), withdrawal of previously granted subsidies, tax measures and other regulatory interventions[3].

Similarly, ISDS have increasingly been used by investors in the extractive industries in several African countries, challenging governmental reform action, such as policy against speculation in the oil industry as well as tax measures. For example, Vanoil Ltd., a Canadian oil company, threatened to bring a case against Kenya after failure to secure extension of a pair of production-sharing contracts for onshore oil exploration in Kenya. African Petroleum Gambia Limited brought a case (contract-based) against Gambia disputing termination of hydrocarbon licenses for exploration of oil. Total E&P Uganda BV (Dutch), subsidiary of French company Total S.A., brought a claim in relation to a stamp duty imposed by the Uganda Revenue Authority on the acquisition of stakes from London-listed Tullow Oil[4].

The problem of the investment protection regime is multilayered and is rooted in the following deficiencies: an imbalance in the provisions of the investment treaties (including broad definitions of investment and investor, free transfer of capital, rights to establishment, the national treatment and the most-favoured-nation (MFN) clauses, fair and equitable treatment, protection from direct and indirect expropriation and prohibition of performance requirements), which focus on the investors‘ rights and neglect investors‘ responsibilities, while often lacking express recognition of the need to safeguard the host states‘ regulatory authority; vague treaty provisions, which allow for expansive interpretation by arbitrators and for the rise of systemic bias in favour of the investors in the resolution of disputes under investment treaty law.

Such trends are often not in line with the original intent of the States negotiating the treaty; the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which is led by a network of arbitrators dominated by private lawyers, whose expertise often stem from commercial law. Arbitrators have asserted jurisdiction over a wide range of issues, including regulatory measures on which constitutional courts had made a decision in accordance with the national law.

The way the ISDS system has operated so far generates deep concerns in regard to democratic governance and accountability; the lack of transparency and available public information on ISDS procedures limit the space of public participation and accountability. Currently 608 ISDS cases are known.

However, since most international investment agreements allow for fully confidential arbitration, the actual number is likely to be higher. Within this context, claims or threats by investors to bring forward a claim against a particular state are increasing.

Several countries, both developed and developing, have been reviewing their approach to investment treaties, including looking at ways of reducing their legal liability under bilateral investment treaties (BITs), especially given the surge in investor-to-state dispute cases (ISDS) from these treaties.

According to the UNCTAD, at least 40 countries and four regional integration organizations are currently or have been recently revising their model of international investment agreements[5], and at least 60 countries have developed or are developing new model IIAs since 2012[6]. UNCTAD points out that ”the question is not whether to reform or not, but about the what, how and extent of such reform“.

Developing countries seeking to reform their approach to investment protection treaties have reviewed their existing international investment agreements and their implications. Some have set a moratorium on signing and ratifying new agreements during the time of the review. Some countries like South Africa, Indonesia, Ecuador and Bolivia chose to withdraw from all or some treaties. South Africa chose to replace BITs with a new national Investment Act entitled Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, that clarifies investment protection standards consistent with the South African constitution. Indonesia chose to develop a new model BIT, so did India.. Ecuador reverted to investment contracts as the main legal instrument defining the relation with investors, including setting clear obligations on the investor, such as performance requirements. Some states are pursuing alternatives at the regional level, through developing model rules that take into consideration the developmental concerns

[1] Yao Graham, “Escaping the Winner’s Curse – The Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and some challenges of the international trade and investment regime”, Third World Network Africa, available online at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/research/clusters/international/devconf/participants/papers/graham_-_escaping_the_winners_curse.pdf .

[2] See: Sarah Anderson & Manuel Perez Rocha, “Mining for Profits in International Tribunals: Lessons for the Trans-Pacific Partnership”, Institute for Policy Studies, April 2013.

[3] Source: http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/webdiaepcb2013d3_en.pdf (2012).

[4]Source: Reuters Africa, “Uganda: Total seeks arbitration over Uganda tax dispute” (March 22, 2015) by Elias Biryabarema, available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/investingNews/idAFKBN0MR0SI20150331?sp=true .

[5]UNCTAD World Investment Report (2014) & UNCTAD IIA issue note 3, “Reform of the IIA Regime: Four Paths of Action and a Way Forward” (June 2014) & UNCTAD World Investment Report – Overview (2015).

[6]UNCTAD, “Taking Stock of IIA Reform”, UNCTAD Issues Note (March 2016)

(End)

Tree Regeneration Restoring Hope

Maurice Kaduka Lukaro, 54, is a farmer in Oljorai, an area with short grasses and small-scattered bushes in Nakuru county in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Crop production has declined tremendously in this region. Like the rest of the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) in the Sub Saharan region, Maurice Kaduka Lukaro, 54, is a farmer […]