International Investment Disputes Focus of Washington and Lee and United Nations Joint Conference

Lexington, VA Thursday, March 18, 2010

When: Monday, March 29
Where: Millhiser Moot Court Room
Symposium Web Page
A scan of the financial sections of major national and international newspapers reveals numerous headlines on investment treaty disputes between states and investors.  These disputes, involving countries as diverse as Chile, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Poland and the United States, involve trillions of dollars and in some cases the political and economic stability of a country.

In investment treaty disputes, governments may risk billion-dollar liabilities for implementing regulatory measures to address the global economic crises, and such steps may adversely affect foreign investment. These disputes are then funneled to an arbitration system where investors and states resolve their differences. 

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the arm of the United Nations focused on foreign investment and development, the number of cases launched now exceeds 360, with 46 already decided in favor of investors yielding cumulative awards in excess of US $3 billion.  Given concerns about the current arbitration system, which have caused some countries to withdraw from international investment agreements (IIAs) and even to withdraw from a major international investment convention, re-evaluation of the arbitration system is necessary to ensure the integrity of the dispute resolution process.

On March 29, academics, governments, practitioners, investors, and representatives from international and non-governmental organizations from around the world will meet at Washington and Lee University School of Law (W&L) in Lexington, Virginia for a symposium to explore the prevention and efficient management of investment treaty disputes.  The symposium is a joint effort between W&L and UNCTAD.

Through its work on IIAs, UNCTAD aids the effective participation of developing countries in international investment rule-setting.  In addition to its extensive publications and databases related to IIAs and treaty arbitrations, UNCTAD provides policy analysis, technical assistance, and capacity-building to support the negotiation of effective treaties.  UNCTAD's participation in the symposium continues its tradition of seeking opportunities for collaboration and consensus building related to IIAs and effective mechanisms for investor-state dispute settlement.

W&L Law Professor Susan Franck, a leading expert in international economic dispute resolution, is serving as the conference's co‐organizer.

"The symposium is a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds to foster creative opportunities to prevent the escalation of investment disputes and, where they happen, manage them more efficiently and fairly," Prof. Franck explains. "Given the global importance of investment treaties, the surge in the number of cases and the cost implications, we are at a unique time in history to begin to address the issues constructively."

Prof. W. Michael Reisman, the Myres S. McDougal Professor of International Law at Yale University, will deliver the keynote address. Other participating experts include Meg Kinnear, Secretary General of the World Bank's International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID); William K. Slate II, President and CEO of the American Arbitration Association (AAA); and Wolf von Kumberg, Legal Director and Assistant General Counsel at Northrop Grumman Corporation.  Also speaking will be representatives from countries such as Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Japan, Rwanda, Thailand, and the U.S.

Symposium panels will address the experiences of stakeholders in investment treaty dispute resolution, explore strategies for improving the management of investment treaty disputes, and consider creative options for the future of dispute management and prevention.  A complete conference schedule is available at

Given the importance of the symposium, several major organizations and law firms, including the American Society of International Law, the American Arbitration Association, Foley Hoag LLP, Arnold & Porter LLP, Shearman Sterling LLP, Crowell & Moring LLP, and Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, are sponsoring the event.  Transnational Dispute Management is serving as a media sponsor.

The conference is free and open to the public. Registration is requested no later than March 22, 2010.  Participants may register at   

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