PluriCourts Lunch Seminar: Reforming the Investment Treaty System

Wednesday Lunch Seminar with visiting research fellow Taylor St John

Dr. Taylor St John will present a co-authored paper with Anthea Roberts on "Reforming the Investment Treaty System". 

How do you do institutional design in complex systems? The investment treaty system is increasingly understood as a complex adaptive system or regime complex. Where do designers fit within this turn to complexity theory? In short, they typically don’t. So what happens when a group of designers come together in a conscious attempt to manage the evolution of a complex system? That is what we see at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) negotiations where states and other actors have been meeting since 2017 to consider whether and how to reform Investor–State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). As participant-observers in these negotiations, St John and Roberts have watched state officials and other participants grapple with design questions for several years. To explain what they have observed, they conceptualize these UNCITRAL participants as complex designers and formulate a series of emergent design principles that seem to guide their approach in the reform negotiations. To refine these concepts, St John and Roberts employ an abductive method that braids together insights from participant-observation (including interviews and recordings of the negotiations) with insights from complexity theory.

Taylor St John is an Assistant Professor/Lecturer in International Relations at the University of St Andrews. She was previously a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Political Science at PluriCourts and is part of the LEGINVEST project and new COPIID project at PluriCourts. Her research focuses on institutional change and investor–state arbitration. Her monograph, The Rise of Investor–State Arbitration, traced the growth of this form of arbitration from the 1950s to the 1990s. Currently, she is researching investor–state arbitration reform, including writing a series of blogs with Anthea Roberts on the reform negotiations underway at UNCITRAL, available here 
(EJIL: Talk!)

For more information about the lunch, please contact Mahalet Tadesse.


PluriCourts Lunch Seminars are a forum for pluridisciplinary discussion of core issues relating to international courts and tribunals. PluriCourts scholars or invited speakers present new and ongoing research or comment on current questions

Published Aug. 12, 2021 4:56 PM - Last modified Aug. 12, 2021 4:56 PM