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Creating Conduits

Summary Report of the First Annual Oxford Investment Claims Summer Academy, St. Anne’s College (Oxford)
Diane Desierto, Ian Laird & Frédéric Sourgens (co-chairs)

This July 13-14, Oxford University Press and Investment Claims convened the First Annual Oxford Investment Claims Summer Academy at St. Anne’s College Oxford.  Co-chaired by Diane Desierto, Ian Laird, and Frédéric Sourgens, the Academy brought together a select expert group of academic and practitioner delegates to discuss the legitimacy of investor–state arbitration in the context of continuous and often virulent political criticism. The method and structure of the Academy departed from a traditional presentation format. Instead, the Academy as the first gathering of experts of its kind acted as a laboratory for open and rapid discussion of frontier issues among all participants. As a result of this format, the Academy constructively explored both traditional text-based and context-sensitive solutions for these frontier issues. Judge James Crawford’s keynote address to the delegates aptly captured the spirit of the open and critical discussion when noting that while there is little in the way of feasible alternatives to investor–state arbitration and much to lose by its abolition, bench, bar, and ivory tower must find it in them to become better stewards of this mode of international dispute resolution. In particular, there is an urgent need to address weaknesses made visible by the first two decades of sustained arbitral and annulment jurisprudence. Given the quality of engagement at St. Anne’s, the co-chairs are planning to hold the Academy again in the summer of 2016.

The Academy was divided over two days into five panels and three research discussions. The panels addressed the nature of consent in investor–state arbitration, concerns relating to the impartiality of investor–state tribunals, the nature of applicable law in investor–state arbitration, and the handling of evidence by investor-state tribunals. The research discussions engaged with the appropriate use of human rights and public policy in international economic law and the evolution of treaty interpretation in investor–state arbitration. The Academy closed with a summary panel addressing whether, as Senator Elizabeth Warren charged, investor–state tribunals are in fact “rigged pseudo-courts”.

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