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A Case Study of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline Project

Author: Terra Lawson-Remer, Fellow for Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy
Editor: Olivier De Schutter
September 1, 2006
Hart Publishing Ltd.

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The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship (or lack thereof) between the legal framework underlying the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline project and the International Finance Corporation (the member of the World Bank Group responsible for financing private-sector projects), and to argue that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) would more effectively further its mission of promoting environmentally and socially sustainable development by requiring this legal framework to be compatible with the effective enforcement of evolving international environmental and human rights norms. The BTC pipeline project illustrates both the risk of States being pressured by foreign investors wishing to obtain government guarantees that insulate their investment from risk, and the potential role multilateral lending institutions might play in limiting the detrimental effects of such imbalance in bargaining power.

My purpose is not to look at the myriad critiques regarding implementation in the pipeline project of the IFC's existing social and environmental safeguard policies,[1] nor to explore the ongoing general controversy regarding the adequacy of the IFC's safeguard policies,[2] although both these issues will be touched upon. This paper instead seeks narrowly to examine the controversial legal framework governing the BTC Project.

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