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Reform of ISDS: Matching Concerns and Solutions

Published on April 3, 2019        Author:  and

Editors’ Note:  For the rest of this week, we are featuring successive posts by certain individual members of the Academic Forum of the UNCITRAL Working Group III (UNCITRAL WG III) on Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform, in parallel with ongoing UNCITRAL WG III meetings in New York.  EJIL:Talk! will thereafter feature invited contributions to respond to the posts.

Over the last few years, growing criticism over investor-State arbitration has triggered demands for reform of the existing framework from States, international organizations, and civil society groups. At its fiftieth session in July 2017, Member States of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) decided to entrust Working Group III (WGIII) with a three-phase mandate on investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) reform, whereby WGIII would first identify concerns regarding ISDS; second, consider whether reform was desirable in the light of those concerns; and third, if WGIII were to conclude that reform was desirable, develop solutions to be recommended to UNCITRAL (see here, paras. 263-264).

Although the UNCITRAL process is government‐led, it is open to consider views of various stakeholders, including civil society and academia. In that context, in 2018 the Geneva Center for International Dispute Settlement (CIDS) facilitated the creation of an “Academic Forum on ISDS”, the purpose of which is for academics active in the field of ISDS to exchange views, explore issues and options, test ideas and solutions, and hopefully make a constructive and research-based contribution to the ongoing discussions on possible reform of ISDS, in particular the discussions in the context of WGIII.PluriCourts at the University of Oslo is the current administrator of the Academic Forum, which presently counts more than 120 members and is led by a Steering Committee, which Prof. Malcolm Langford chairs.

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