Last week, multilateral efforts to reform investor-state dispute resolution (ISDS) entered a new phase, with substantive discussions of reform options beginning in earnest. As readers of this blog are aware, delegations from around a hundred States have been working multilaterally toward reforming ISDS in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), Working Group III (WGIII) over the last two years.
This work began in earnest in WGIII’s 34th Session in Vienna (2017) and has continued through biannual Sessions in Vienna and New York. From 2017–2018, Delegations registered substantial concerns with ISDS, relating to fragmented arbitral outcomes; the arbitrators charged with adjudicating disputes; matters of duration and cost; the lack of a framework to address multiple proceedings; and third-party funding (Phase 1). In Vienna last year, WGIII decided to work multilaterally to reform such concerns within UNCITRAL (Phase 2) – discussed further here. Last week proved to be a key hinge in the process. WGIII has now moved firmly into working on concrete reform options (Phase 3).
WGIII’s 37th Session in New York this past Spring 2019 appeared as something of a lull in the process, but it culminated in a key compromise on working methods that preserved consensus for the time being. WGIII spent much of that week debating working procedures, ultimately adopting a compromise plan to divide working time between developing “structural reforms” (i.e., large scale institutional reform options like a standing investment court or a standalone appellate body), and “functional reforms” (i.e., specific targeted reforms on problematic aspects of ISDS, like the lack of code of conduct, the lack of a mechanism to address multiple claims and shareholder claims more generally, third party funding, and security for costs). But it deferred actually developing a concrete project schedule until the fall.
WGIII’s 38th Session in Vienna last week marked the fruition of that compromise, and a transition into detailed discussions on reform options.READ MORE