The number and diversity of parties with interests in the future of international investment protection has never been greater – a result of tremendous growth in cross-border investment and rapid economic development in many parts of the world. At the same time, many stakeholders, including states and NGOs, have argued that the existing framework of investment treaties is in need of reform. Some have alleged, among other criticisms, that existing treaties limit the policy freedom of states to regulate in the interests of public health and environmental protection. In this context, on 16 October 2014 in Geneva, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) convened a conference on the future of international investment agreements (IIAs), including in particular bilateral and multilateral investment treaties, and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).
UNCTAD has been working for several years to identify concrete mechanisms and proposals for reform of the system. We previously covered this initiative here. In July of this year UNCTAD also published an Issues Note that identified four potential paths of action and a recommended way forward for the reform of the existing IIA regime. The October conference built upon UNCTAD’s work, and followed the release of UNCTAD’s comprehensive 2014 World Investment Report.