International Economic Law

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Epidemic Sovereignty? Contesting investment treaty claims arising from coronavirus measures

  Though nothing can be immortall, which mortals make; yet, if men had the use of reason they pretend to, their Common-wealths might be secured, at least, from perishing by internall diseases. Hobbes, Leviathan (1651). My morning radio plays a hit parade of measures adopted by various States to combat the pandemic spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), from Italian lockdown to British equivocation. Our collective infirmity has exposed the dependence of supply chains and financial forecasts on the predictability of sovereign responses to emergent threats. Policies so far seem disjointed, parochial, ad hoc. Economic loss is escalating in the scramble to save lives. When the dust settles, some foreign investors could call upon their host State to cough up. Indeed, allegedly arbitrary or disproportionate measures, albeit in the public interest, provide regular grist for the mill of investment treaty arbitration. In the debate whether investment treaties create a chilling effect, there is an assumed ‘clash of cultures’ between public health and investment arbitration. By…

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Hacking Humanitarians? IHL and the protection of humanitarian organizations against cyber operations

For some years, experts have cautioned that the more humanitarian organizations collect data, the more they ‘are exposed to a growing wave of digital attacks and cyber espionage, and have become highly prized targets’. In late January 2020, the issue made headlines: The New Humanitarian reported a ‘sophisticated’ cyber operation…

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Human Rights in the Era of Automation and Artificial Intelligence

  Editor's Note: Following is a Keynote Lecture delivered at the 2nd KU Leuven AI Law & Ethics Conference (LAILEC 2020), held on 18 February 2020.  The author is grateful for the exchanges with Professors Joanna Bryson, Peggy Valcke, Nathalie Smuha, AI policy practitioners and EU Commission representatives.  The lecture was delivered one day before the European…

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UNCITRAL and ISDS Reform: Plausible Folk Theories

  As observers of the UNCITRAL process, we watch the debates with great interest, writing about the emergence of different camps, giving perspectives on how the process fits within broader geopolitical developments, and offering potential models for moving forward. One thing that we are often struck by is how some of the field’s underlying narratives are…

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UNCITRAL and ISDS Reforms: What Makes Something Fly?

  When conducting an international negotiation, the Chair has to ask him or herself: what makes something fly? This question really has two parts. The first concerns the negotiations themselves. Once you’ve taken off and achieved a certain cruising speed and altitude, how do you keep the momentum going? Will some flight paths be smoother than…

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