Law Professor Offers Expert Testimony at United Nations Conference

Lexington, VA • Friday, February 06, 2009

Susan D. Franck

Evaluating the IIA Dispute Resolution Process
Listen to Prof. Susan Franck's UN presentation on International Investment Agreements

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Susan D. Franck, associate professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law and an expert in international economic law and dispute resolution, will present expert evidence this February at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Franck's testimony will come during an experts meeting examining International Investment Agreements (IIA). IIAs are treaties between governments that encourage infrastructure development and facilitate global trade by protecting investments and investors from signatory countries.

"These agreements are essentially rule of law mechanisms," says Franck. "They ensure that countries treat each other fairly and provide a stable framework for international investment."

Franck's research explores the arbitration process that is triggered when one of these agreements is in dispute. By systematically examining the outcomes of the arbitration process, Franck learns what factors can influence the decisions of the arbitration tribunals.

"You can think of this issue as a two-headed coin," says Franck. "On one side are the benefits of the treaty, including fostering foreign investment. My research focuses on the other side of that coin, namely evaluating the dispute resolution mechanisms so that the nations entering into these agreements understand some of the potential costs."

The United Nations operation in Geneva focuses specifically on human rights and trade and development issues. UNCTAD itself was established in 1964 to promote the integration of developing countries into the world economy. Over the years, the conference has evolved to play a critical role in collecting information on investment agreements and dispute resolution processes. That information, in turn, is provided to all countries and entities engaging in international investment in order to ensure fairness across the spectrum of cultures and development status.

Franck notes that historically economic disputes between nations were settled generally with diplomacy, and as a result, conflict resolution was sometimes difficult to achieve.

"What makes the arbitration remedy unique and revolutionary is that it empowers private citizens who invest in a country to demand a home government come to the bargaining table," says Franck. "In the historical context, the availability of any binding dispute resolution mechanism is hugely significant."

Franck is one of the stars of this relatively new field at the nexus of law and international economics. Her recent article on this topic published in the Virginia Journal of International Law was named the best article of 2008 by OGEMID, a group of scholars and practitioners in international investment law.  In addition, she was recently invited to serve as co-chair of the American Society of International Law's (ASIL) International Economic Law Interest Group. 

Franck received her B.A., summa cum laude, in Psychology and Political Science from Macalester College and her J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Minnesota. Thereafter, Professor Franck received a U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Grant to study international dispute resolution at the University of London where she received an LL.M. with merit. Her practice experience includes service with Wilmer Hale in Washington, D.C.  and  with the International Arbitration Group at Allen & Overy in London, England, where she represented investors and sovereign states in arbitrations involving breaches of investment treaties and underlying commercial agreements.

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