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Centre for Commercial Law Studies

Impartiality and the Construction of Trust in Investor State Dispute Settlement

When: Thursday, February 1, 2024, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Where: UCL Faculty of Laws, Bentham House, 4-8 Endsleigh Gardens, London WC1H 0EG


Speaker: Professor Stavros Brekoulakis (Queen Mary University of London)
Chair: Professor Sir Bernard Rix (Twenty Essex)

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is a justice system that allows investors to bring disputes against states before international arbitration tribunals which are established on an ad hoc basis and are paid by the parties. ISDS is currently included in thousands of international trade and investment agreements as the default system of resolving disputes between states and investors. ISDS is also the subject of extensive criticism. A large part of this criticism stems from claims that ISDS lacks impartiality and is often perceived as being structurally biased in favour of investors and against states with attention being focused on various reform options. However, absent from the debate and reform proposals is the fundamental question issue of what is being assessed in the first place. What is the idea of impartiality against which ISDS is assessed.

Drawing on the findings of a large-scale empirical project, the Lecture will question the applicability of an orthodox judicial idea of impartiality in ISDS. As the Lecture will argue, a judicial doctrine of impartiality does not reconcile with the fundamental value of trust in ISDS arbitrators which is constructed on a fundamentally different basis from that of trust in national and international judges.

The Lecture will call for a new, and contextualised, understanding of impartiality which better corresponds to the value of trust in ISDS. As the Lecture will explain, within this nuanced understanding certain forms of partiality can and should be compatible in ISDS decision making.

This lecture will be delivered by Professor Stavros Brekoulakis, as part of the Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2023-24

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