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Reform and Entrenchment in International Investment Law - Webinar

As part of the 'Santander Roundtable Discussions on International Economic Law' event series, a joint webinar of the International Investment Law Centre Cologne (IILCC) and Kenyatta University School of Law took place on 13 January 2021 under the motto 'Reform and Entrenchment in International Investment Law'. The aim of the event was a transcontinental exchange on current reforms in international investment law, with discussants from Chicago, Nairobi, and Cologne. About 80 participants from all over the world followed the discussion and participated by asking questions and making comments in the parallel chat.

After an introduction by Professor Tomasz Milej (Kenyatta University Nairobi), Professor James Thuo Gathii (Loyola University Chicago) addressed in his keynote speech the reform project currently underway at the United Nations to realign investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Its predominant focus on procedural details clearly showed that the priorities continue to be determined by leading industrialised nations and that the interests of developing countries remain largely disregarded. In this context, he recalled that today's international economic law system, and ISDS in particular, was historically shaped by colonialism. Following on from this, he used the example of Africa to discuss in detail the negative effects that international investment treaties often have on public interests. Against this background, there was a danger that the current reform would not bring progress but would contribute to the entrenchment of existing injustices.

Afterwards, Ms Florence Shako (Riara Law School, Nairobi) and Junior Professor Julian Scheu (University of Cologne) commented from an African and European perspective. Ms Shako reiterated Professor Gathii's concerns and stressed that fully internationalised dispute resolution was inappropriate to take into account interests of the local population. Instead, she pointed out that local courts were the better forum for resolving investment disputes. Junior Professor Scheu recalled that abolishing investment protection and ISDS would not eliminate the conflictual political issues typically related to foreign investments. However, the current reform process should not be seen as conclusive, but rather as a starting point for an inclusive reorientation of international economic law. To this end, a systematic interlinking of investment law with other areas of international law, especially in the field of environmental and human rights protection, should be given priority.

Please find a recording of the webinar here. Further information on the African perspective on international economic law can also be found via the academic network 'AfronomicsLaw'.