The ways in which the investment protection regime frames disputes between states and investors misses that these disputes, particularly when they relate to the extractive industry, are embedded in complex social relations. This article calls for a reimagining of these disputes and efforts to resolve them.
The UNCITRAL Working Group III (WGIII) convened virtually from February 8 to 12 for its 40th session. During this session, the group’s deliberations focused on two main issues related to structural reform of ISDS: the selection and appointment of ISDS tribunal members in the context of a “Standing mechanism” or “Standing body” (A/CN.9/WG.III/WP.203) and an appellate mechanism (A/CN.9/WG.III/WP.202).
On November 9, 2020, the Asian Academy of International Law hosted a virtual event on the use of mediation in investor–state dispute settlement. This event is one of several being organized by UNCITRAL in parallel to the formal meetings of the Working Group III on investor–state dispute settlement reform.
There are several efforts underway at multiple levels—national, bilateral, regional and multilateral—aimed at reforming the IIA regime. These reform efforts are operating in parallel to developments in other areas of international investment governance, some of which have advanced quickly over the past year, including the structured discussions on investment facilitation at the WTO, as well as efforts in the UN context to craft a binding treaty on business and human rights. This year’s UNCTAD High-Level IIA Conference assessed the progress made to date since launching UNCTAD’s 10 Options for Phase 2 of IIA Reform, looking at trends across multiple areas of international investment governance, as well as across world regions. This ITN Insight summarizes the key takeaways from the 2019 event and considerations for Phase 2 going forward.
The upcoming meeting of Working Group III of UNCITRAL in January 2020 will be a valuable opportunity to intensify the push for real reform of ISDS. This ITN Insight provides an update from the October 2019 discussions in Vienna, where countries set out a workplan for their upcoming talks on reform solutions, outlining when to discuss which options. The authors review lessons learned to date and look ahead to the topics slated for discussion in January 2020: a stand-alone review or appellate mechanism; a standing MIC; and the selection and appointment of arbitrators and adjudicators. Taking a deep dive into each, they highlight key issues for negotiators to consider.
On November 6, 2019, the Energy Charter Conference confirmed that it would hold the first session of its “Modernization Group” on December 12, 2019, kicking off the process to revise the decades-old ECT.
From October 14 to 18, 2019, negotiators will gather in Vienna for the next session of the UNCITRAL Working Group III on ISDS reform, where they will move from considering concerns with the current system to assessing possible solutions. In this ITN Insight, Jane Kelsey discusses various examples of how some countries have tested out alternatives to ISDS, such as state–state arbitration, alternative dispute resolution, domestic legislation and enforcement, and the exhaustion of domestic remedies. For each ISDS alternative, she examines what benefits and challenges arose, and how the lessons learned can help inform the next phase of UNCITRAL deliberations.
ICSID Rule Amendment: An attempt to remedy some of the concerns regarding ISDS identified by UNCITRAL WG III
The process for updating ICSID’s rules has been taking place in parallel to the UNCITRAL Working Group III deliberations on ISDS reform, prompting an important conversation of how these efforts may complement each other. In this new Insight, Rafael Ramos Codeço and Henrique Martins Sachetim examine the ICSID rule amendment process, taking a close look at a few key amendments under consideration and examining the extent to which these might help address some of the ISDS-related concerns that have been identified at UNCITRAL.
Judgment C-252 of 2019 of the Constitutional Court of Colombia: Change of precedent on the control of BITs
Judgment C-252 of the Constitutional Court of Colombia, on the constitutionality of the Colombia–France BIT, has aroused interest for being the response of the constitutional judge to the way in which foreign investment protection clauses are incorporated into domestic law.
The idea of entrusting party-appointed arbitrators with powers to decide investor–state disputes through final and binding awards, inherited from commercial arbitration and traditionally accepted as appropriate, now causes discomfort among critics.
ICSID rule amendment process: Third working paper released in August 2019, consultation with states scheduled for November 2019, approval expected for October 2020
On August 16, 2019, the ICSID secretariat released the third working paper featuring proposed rule amendments, based on inputs from member states and the public.
The European Council has approved negotiating directives for the EU’s participation in talks to modernize the ECT, confirming its decision during a meeting on July 2, 2019.
This piece examines recent trends in the use of third-party funding (TPF) in treaty-based ISDS and the implications of TPF for investor conduct, developments in investment law and host state conduct. TPF has been raised in two multilateral processes currently underway: the talks to amend ICSID arbitration rules and to consider multilateral reform of ISDS at UNCITRAL. Given the narrow nature of the TPF discussions in ICSID, the authors make the case for policy-makers to consider full or partial bans of TPF at UNCITRAL.
Spain has faced approximately 40 arbitrations since it made the decision in 2010 to rescind or revise various regulatory measures aimed at drawing in greater investments into renewable energy projects. This article examines the awards issued in four of those cases, looking in particular at how the tribunals interpreted and applied the FET standard. The author looks at the potential problems that can emerge when states are unsure of how any given tribunal may interpret FET or other key standards and presents some potential solutions.
The April 2019 deliberations on multilateral ISDS reform at UNCITRAL Working Group III were due to tackle a series of questions that emerged in Phase 2 of the process. This piece breaks down why the scope of these discussions should be expanded to include important concerns raised by developing countries, and describes three core issues that must not be ignored. These involve the right to participation by affected parties; the rule of law and domestic courts’ jurisdiction; and the chilling of sovereign states’ authority and responsibility to govern.
Delegates had a new round of deliberations for multilateral reform of ISDS at UNCITRAL from April 1 to 5. The meeting of Working Group III, which is tasked with this process, was held in New York.
Multilateral ISDS Reform Is Desirable: What happened at the UNCITRAL meeting in Vienna and how to prepare for April 2019 in New York
UNCITRAL Working Group III has decided that multilateral reform is desirable to address various concerns regarding ISDS. Its next session will identify other concerns that may have been missed and prepare a work plan to develop solutions. This article reviews the UNCITRAL process so far and helps governments prepare for the upcoming session.
UNCITRAL Working Group III decides that multilateral reform of ISDS desirable; governments to submit proposals to develop work plan for reform
UNCITRAL Working Group III continued discussions on possible reform of investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) at its 36th session, held October 28–November 2, 2018 in Vienna.
The backlash against investment arbitration has led to a wave of investment law reform. Approaches include creating obligations relating to investor conduct, clarifying existing disciplines, safeguarding policy space and revising ISDS mechanisms. This piece investigates the link between investment treaty design and the risk of arbitration claims.
UNCITRAL Working Group III is scheduled to continue discussions on possible reform of ISDS at its 36th session, to be held October 29–November 2, 2018 in Vienna.
Canadian government launches consultation on Canada’s foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPA), open until October 28, 2018
Canadian Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr announced on August 14, 2018 the launch of a public consultation on Canada’s BITs, known as foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPAs).
It will take time for dialogues on ISDS reform to produce results. In the interim, rather than continue to assume the unjustified risks associated with the flawed ISDS system, states could consider two near-term options. This piece looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each.
An Interview with Luis Guillermo Vélez – Director-General of Colombia’s National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State
On the heels of our 11th Annual Forum of Developing Country Investment Negotiators, we interviewed Luis Guillermo Vélez, Director-General of Colombia’s National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State (ANDJE), to capture his experiences on investment negotiations and disputes, his expectations for investment reform processes and views on the value of the Forum.
The 35th session of Working Group III of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) takes place April 23–27, 2018
UNCITRAL receives mandate to work on ISDS reform; Transparency Convention to enter into force on October 18, 2017
On July 14, 2017, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) entrusted its Working Group III with a broad mandate to work on the possible reform of investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS).
The World Investment Report (WIR) focuses on trends in foreign direct investment (FDI) and emerging measures to improve its contribution to development.
The Settlement of Investment Disputes: A Discussion of Democratic Accountability and the Public Interest
In the context of disputes involving governments, settlement agreements threaten accountability, respect for the rule of law, transparency and respect for citizens’ rights and interests. Any reform agenda must cover settlements and the policy issues they raise.
Investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS), a concept much unknown to the broader public and even top policy-makers only a year ago, is making headlines, especially as the European Union and the United States contemplate including the mechanism in the deal they are currently negotiating, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Public awareness is growing of […]
More than 300 experts and delegates from member states, international organizations, NGOs, the private sector and academia attended the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Meeting on the Transformation of the International Investment Agreement (IIA) Regime from February 25 to 27, 2015 in Geneva. Working in breakout and plenary sessions, the experts explored […]