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Investment-Related Dispute Settlement

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In the past two decades, investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) has developed at an unprecedented pace. Invoking investment treaties and investor–state contracts, transnational companies and other investors have been able to sue states challenging a wide range of measures adopted in the public interest.

Through ISDS, investors have challenged public health and environmental measures, and measures involving projects with significant impact on local communities. With public policy issues at stake and with governments often condemned to paying multimillion dollar awards, public awareness and opposition against investor–state arbitration has increased significantly over the past few years.

In 2014 IISD convened a meeting gathering a diverse group of experts, including academics, government officials and representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The group’s expertise ranged from diplomacy, economics and law, to the fields of investment, human rights and trade. 

The starting point of the meeting was the following question: “If investment-related dispute settlement mechanisms at the international level were to be built anew, what should they look like?”

A consensus emerged among the experts about the need to address the fact that people who are negatively affected or harmed by investment operations lack effective access to justice under international and domestic law, while foreign investors have access to international dispute settlement under treaties and contracts.

Building on the outcomes of the meeting, IISD continues to organize expert meetings on investment-related dispute settlement and to foster innovative thinking on the topic.

Expert Meetings and Reports

  • Developing a New Accountability and Dispute Settlement Mechanism on Investment: Lessons from international accountability mechanisms (IAMs): event page of the expert meeting to be held in Washington, D.C., United States, on April 11, 2017.
  • Investment-Related Dispute Settlement: Towards an inclusive multilateral approachevent page and report of the expert meeting held in Montreux, Switzerland, on May 23 and 24, 2016.
  • Investment-Related Dispute Settlement: Reflections on a new beginning: report of the expert meeting held in Montreux, Switzerland, on October 17 and 18, 2014.

For more information, please contact the project team.