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Rethinking National Investment Laws: Lessons for policy-making

National investment laws should be renewed to reflect the urgent need to support sustainable investment and meet the challenges of the 21st century—such as climate change and global inequality. In this webinar, the authors of a new IISD report on national investment laws and leading international experts discussed how policy-makers can make the best use of this instrument.

July 27, 2023 11:00 am - 12:30 pm Central European Summer Time (CEST)

Via Zoom

(Open to public)

National investment laws are versatile policy instruments. Governments can use them to ensure investment is governed in line with national policy objectives and the ultimate objective of promoting sustainable development—as explored in IISD's new report.

However, they are often seen as laws with one main function: to provide incentives or legal protection to investors. This narrow view misses the wide range of functions that investment laws perform today. It underestimates the potential of national investment laws as policy tools to help governments reach development goals.

National investment laws are currently in force in many developing countries but vary widely in terms of the functions they serve and their content. They can come to the attention of policy-makers for a variety of reasons, such as when:

  • Policy-makers are evaluating the effectiveness of the tax incentives provided in the national investment law and ask if the incentives provided to certain types of investors work as intended.
  • Foreign firms invest in an industry with national security relevance, which leads elected officials to consider if the screening and approval procedure outlined in the national investment law needs to be updated.
  • Bilateral or regional investment treaties are being negotiated or reformed, prompting policy-makers to ask how their treaties and national laws relate to each other.
  • Wider investment law reform discussions prompt policy-makers to ask if their investment law is outdated.
  • The investment climate has been reviewed by an external organization, and the review recommends reforming the legal framework for investment, including updating an existing national investment law or writing a new one. 

In any of these circumstances, policy-makers may want to know more about national investment laws and consider creating, reforming, or removing national investment laws.

Based on IISD's new report, Rethinking National Investment Laws: A Study of Past and Present Laws to Inform Future Policy-Making, the purpose of the webinar was to help policy-makers rethink their national investment laws. In this webinar, a panel of esteemed investment policy experts from international organizations discussed the key findings of the IISD report and how national investment laws can be calibrated to face the current challenges of investment governance.

The webinar charted how national investment laws have changed over time and analyze contemporary investment laws, focusing on seven main functions that these laws serve today beyond the traditional dichotomy dividing national investment laws into facilitative and controlling. The speakers articulated lessons from the past and present to guide policy-makers on the reform of their investment laws.



Helene François, Legal Advisor and Investment Policy Analyst, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Massimo Meloni, Coordinator, National Investment Policies Section, UN Conference on Trade and Development


Report authors:

Jonathan Bonnitcha, Associate Professor in Law, School of Global & Public Law, University of New South Wales; Senior Associate in Sustainable Investment, Economic Law and Policy Program, International Institute for Sustainable Development; co-author of the report.

Suzy H. Nikièma, Director of Investment for the Economic Law and Policy Program, International Institute for Sustainable Development; co-author of the report

Taylor St John, Lecturer, University of St Andrews, School of International Relations; co-author of the report



Josef Ostřanský, Policy Advisor, International Institute for Sustainable Development