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Reflecting on a Year Online: Lessons from an IISD survey of international investment negotiators

May 27, 2021 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm CEST

(Open to public)

How do you negotiate online? In early 2020, officials and governments found themselves facing this question, as the COVID-19 pandemic meant that in-person negotiations were paused indefinitely and global negotiations moved online.

After one year of experience with virtual negotiations, what do we know? How do negotiators gather information, build coalitions, and reach compromises during virtual negotiations? What are the opportunities offered and challenges posed by virtual negotiations for developing countries?
This webinar presented preliminary answers to these questions based on a forthcoming IISD publication co-authored by Zoe Williams and Taylor St John, entitled Reflecting on a Year Online: Lessons from a Survey of International Investment Negotiators.

The paper reports results from a survey of negotiators participating in two large virtual negotiations:

  • The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III on investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) reform.
  • The Joint Statement Initiative on investment facilitation among a group of World Trade Organization (WTO) members.

The survey asked officials about barriers to participation in person and online; how they prepare for both types of negotiations; who attends in-person and virtual negotiations and whether this differs; how communication and the conduct of negotiations have changed with the shift online; overall views on the benefits and drawbacks of virtual negotiations; and what negotiating arrangements they would prefer moving forward. 
Participants in this webinar had the opportunity to discuss the report’s suggestions for improving virtual negotiations and good practices for virtual negotiations, as well as sharing their experiences and views on the challenges and opportunities of virtual negotiations.

Speakers and discussants included:  

  • Geoff Pigman, global policy and strategy consultant, and Associate Researcher at the University of Lausanne's Global Sport and Olympic Studies Centre 
  • Taylor St John, Assistant Professor, University of St Andrews 
  • Cissé Aminata Traore, Permanent Secretary of the Superior Council of the Private Sector, Mali
  • Quynh Vu, Deputy Director-General, Department of Legislation, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Vietnam. 
  • Zoe Williams, Associate, Managing Editor of Investment Treaty News, IISD 

Watch the webinar's full recording

Check out the webinar's slides