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Centre for Commercial Law Studies

Daniel Behn: In Memoriam

It was with deep sadness that we learned that our friend and colleague Dr Daniel F. Behn passed away earlier this year at the age of 47. 

Daniel Behn

Daniel Behn. Photo: Max Usynin

Daniel was a Senior Lecturer in International Dispute Resolution at CCLS, Associate Professor at Pluricourts, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo and the Co-Chair of the UNCITRAL Academic Forum on Investor-State Dispute Settlement.

Despite the fact that his academic life was cut far too short, Daniel made important contributions to the field of international investment law and arbitration. Daniel was a pioneer of empirical research. While international law had turned to empiricism already in the 1980s, Daniel was one of the first scholars who applied scientific approaches to the field of international investment law and arbitration. Daniel was fascinated by data and in the last ten years he built an extraordinary database covering every aspect of international investment arbitration. At a time when empirical methods were employed in international arbitration in a casual and often inaccurate manner, Daniel restored the scientific credibility of empiricism in the field and produced empirical work that was deeply committed to both rigorous and ethical principles of research.
Daniel remained deeply committed to a principled approach to research throughout his academic career. The collection and use of data to investigate the law and practices in international arbitration was not informed by a political agenda, as is the case with many scholars in the field. He was neither a blinded critic nor a staunch apologist of investment arbitration. Due to his profound belief in science, data for him was not a scientific disguise to either tear down or defend the field; it was the only credible method to either validate or disprove the myriad myths and facile criticism surrounding investment law and arbitration in the last twenty years. Both of his two seminal articles were informed by these principles: the article published at the renowned journal of European Journal of International Law “Managing Backlash: The Evolving Investment Treaty Arbitrator” (awarded the prestigious prize of the European Society of International Law Young Scholar Award) and his article  published in the other leading Journal of International Economic Law:  “The Revolving Door in International Investment Arbitration” (which was awarded the John H. Jackson Prize for the Best Article).
Daniel’s principled approach to research was informed by a genuine belief that international law can be a force of good. While he recognised their obvious flaws, Daniel believed that investment law and arbitration can also make our world a better place. He was conflict averse by nature, which had reinstated his belief for a credible system of conflict resolution in international trade and investment. While for many commentators criticising international investment law can take the form of an ideological battle, his concern was to make international dispute settlement a more integral and coherent system that could better serve both the public interest and investors. Daniel’s commitment to international law is evident in every one of the more than 40 academic publications over a period of 15 years, and above all in the edited volume which was published just before his passing in the spring of 2022 entitled "The Legitimacy of Investment Arbitration: Empirical Perspectives" (Cambridge University Press), in which he is also the co-author of four chapters. In today’s polarised world, it was rare to find such a balanced, measured and dispassionate critical voice.
Daniel came to CCLS and Queen Mary University of London from Liverpool University in September 2019. In his short period at CCLS, Daniel won the hearts and minds of his students and those colleagues who had the opportunity to closely work with him. He became the Director of Graduate Studies and worked tirelessly to help dozens of PhD students during the challenging times of the pandemic. Daniel was a wonderful and influential educator. He often continued to discuss with students long after the end of his classes at the narrow entrance of the Lincoln Fields building at CCLS. He was a conversationalist; a genuine interlocutor who thrived on engaging with other people through endless discussions about theories and concepts. The more abstract and complex the subject of his discussions, the greater his excitement was. His discussions with students and colleagues would seemlessly move from one intellectual rabbit hole to another, ending up miles (and indeed hours) away from where and when they had started.  
Daniel will be remembered for his sharp intellect. While he found it difficult to deal with the most mundane practicalities of his life, he would navigate with ease and confidence through the most challenging issues of international law. Above all, however, Daniel will be remembered for his integrity. Daniel was a principled man. He would become furious every time he encountered toxic dishonesty; inflammatory injustice; casual intimidation.
His colleagues and friends will continue to remember Daniel for his intellect; his passions for complex conversations; his love for international law; and above all his deep-rooted integrity. 

By Stavros Brekoulakis.

CCLS will unveil plans to honour and commemorate Daniel's legacy in early 2023. 



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