On the importance of defining “frivolous” claims in ISDS

This article explores the meaning of the term “frivolous” as understood by the governments participating in the UNCITRAL WGIII ISDS reform process. It argues that participating states have focused on the procedural aspects of the problem by identifying ways to limit frivolous claims without undertaking the important substantive task of defining such claims.

News  |  March 30, 2022

UNCITRAL Working Group III continues its work on ISDS reform at its 42nd session

In accordance with the third phase of its mandate, as well as the work planning and resourcing plan adopted at its 40th session, UNCITRAL Working Group III (WGIII) has continued its work on ISDS reform in 2022, with a focus on the draft code of conduct for international investment adjudicators, which was already the sole topic on the agenda of the 41st session and the subject of an informal meeting in December 2021.

News  |  December 20, 2021

UNCITRAL WGIII continues work on adjudicator code of conduct

The UNCITRAL WGIII on ISDS reform held its 41st session from November 15–19, 2021, with delegates participating both in person and virtually. Discussions focused on the proposed Draft Code of Conduct for Adjudicators in International Investment Disputes and its attendant note on Means of Implementation and Enforcement.

The UNCITRAL Code of Conduct: Breakthrough or diversion?

UNCITRAL’s Working Group III—charged with global ISDS reform—has circulated its third draft Code of Conduct for investment adjudicators and suggested means for its implementation and enforcement. This article aims to give negotiators an overview of the Code’s provisions, clarify what they mean in practice, and identify specific key issues.

News  |  October 7, 2021

UNCITRAL WGIII to consider proposals on various elements of ISDS reform while the outcome of the request for additional funding remains to be seen

As we reported, UNCITRAL WGIII on ISDS reform held its 40th session in May 2021, at which time delegates discussed a draft work and resourcing plan.

Virtual Negotiations: Lessons from a survey of JSI and UNCITRAL negotiators

The COVID-19 pandemic forced international negotiations, including those related to investment such as the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on investment facilitation by a group of WTO member states, and the UNCITRAL WGIII, to move online. Virtual negotiations create new challenges for officials, as well as new opportunities. This article discusses the results of a survey of delegates involved in the JSI and UNCITRAL processes.

News  |  March 23, 2021

UNCITRAL Working Group III: 40th Session focused on elements of structural reform

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).

The human rights binding treaty negotiation from an international investment law perspective

The sixth negotiation round for the binding treaty on business and human rights recently concluded. This article draws parallels between the issues raised during these negotiations and those that have been the focus of the ongoing conversations on investment arbitration reform.

News  |  December 19, 2020

UNCITRAL Working Group III pre-intersessional meeting on the use of mediation in ISDS

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.

News  |  October 5, 2020

UNCITRAL Working Group III sessions to resume in October

Negotiators working on multilateral reform of the ISDS system will reconvene on October 5 to 9, 2020, in Vienna for their 39th session. This session, which was originally to be held in March and April 2020, was rescheduled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

News  |  March 10, 2020

January UNCITRAL session considers appellate mechanism, standing court, and arbitrator and adjudicator issues

Negotiators working on multilateral reform solutions to ISDS reconvened in Vienna in January 2020 to resume their 38th session, holding talks around the possibility of an appellate mechanism, the benefits and challenges of setting up a permanent court on investment issues, and the process around choosing arbitrators and adjudicators.

News  |  March 10, 2020

Coalition of civil society groups, trade unions caution against MIC option at UNCITRAL

A group of 20 civil society organizations and trade unions from the African continent have circulated a letter questioning the EU’s multilateral investment court (MIC) proposal in the context of the UNCITRAL Working Group III talks on multilateral ISDS reform and urging for a set of alternative proposals to advance instead.

UNCTAD’s 2019 High-level IIA Conference: A new momentum for Phase 2 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.

What to Expect in the January 2020 Session of UNCITRAL Working Group III on ISDS Reform

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.

Awards  |  December 17, 2019

Laos prevails in defending its first known treaty-based ISDS cases

Lao Holdings N.V. v. Lao People’s Democratic Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB(AF)/12/6, and Sanum Investments Limited v. Lao People’s Democratic Republic, UNCITRAL, PCA Case No. 2013-13

UNCITRAL Working Group III: Promoting alternatives to investor–state arbitration as ISDS reform

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.

Toward a Code of Conduct for Investment Adjudicators: Can ethical standards salvage ISDS?

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.

News  |  September 19, 2019

Energy Charter Treaty: EU Council endorses negotiating directives for Brussels

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.

Third-Party Funding and the Objectives of Investment Treaties: Friends or foes?

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’s Renewable Energy Saga: Lessons for international investment law and sustainable development

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.

News  |  June 27, 2019

UNCITRAL Working Group III: July 15 deadline for submissions on proposed reform solutions

Delegates involved in the UNCITRAL Working Group III process on multilateral ISDS reform have until July 15, 2019 to submit to the UNCITRAL Secretariat their reform proposals and the timing for when such items may be considered in an overarching project schedule. That schedule would help guide the working group under Phase 3 of its mandate, which is devoted to crafting solutions to ISDS-related concerns.

Phase 2 of the UNCITRAL ISDS Review: Why “other matters” really matter

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.

News  |  April 23, 2019

European Economic and Social Committee recommends improvements, clarifications for MIC discussions

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has weighed in on the European Commission’s recommendation for a European Council decision to launch negotiations on the proposed MIC, supporting discussions on ISDS reform while noting areas for improvement.

News  |  April 23, 2019

UNCITRAL Working Group III holds New York session

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.

Phase 2 of the UNCITRAL ISDS Review: Why “other matters” really matter

UNCITRAL conferred a broad mandate on Working Group III to consider possible reform of ISDS. In Phase 1 governments identified and considered concerns about ISDS. Phase 2, where they consider whether reform is desirable in light of those concerns, is well advanced. The next meeting in New York in April 2019 is expected to conclude this phase and decide how to pursue the final phase, in which governments will develop any relevant solutions to recommend to the Commission. This note addresses three issues at the heart of the legitimacy crisis confronting the international investment regime that should inform the remainder of Phase 2.

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.

News  |  December 21, 2018

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.

News  |  October 17, 2018

UNCITRAL Working Group III to continue debate on possible multilateral reform of ISDS

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.

Transparency in International Investment Arbitration: A guide to the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-Based Investor–State Arbitration

This book explains the underlying debate and provides an in-depth commentary on the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-Based Investor–State Arbitration, paragraph by paragraph.

The 2018 Draft Dutch Model BIT: A critical assessment

In May 2018, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its new draft model bilateral investment treaty (BIT), in hopes to foster rethinking of existing and future Dutch BITs. Will this revised model achieve this goal, or does it fall short of the promised policy reset?

News  |  July 30, 2018

UNCITRAL Working Group III continues debate on ISDS concerns and multilateral reform

Working Group III of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) continued discussions on possible reform of investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) at its 35th session, held April 23–27, 2018 in New York.

Withdrawal of Consent to Investor–State Arbitration and Termination of Investment Treaties

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.

News  |  April 24, 2018

Council of the European Union adopts negotiating directives: EU Commission to negotiate a convention establishing a multilateral investment court

On March 20, 2018, the Council of the European Union adopted negotiating directives authorizing the European Commission to negotiate a convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes.

News  |  December 21, 2017

UNCITRAL Working Group III holds first meeting on possible reform of ISDS

During the week of November 27–December 1, 2017, Working Group III of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) held its first meeting on possible reform of investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS).