Responses to the 'legitimacy crisis' of international investment law (LEGINVEST)

The project's primary objective is to determine the relative importance of investment treaty arbitration (ITA) for the design of international investment agreements (IIAs) and the relative importance of (re)design of IIAs for ITA. Secondary objectives of the project are to:

1) Establish a general applicability database mapping the content of IIAs,

2) Propose ways to enhance synergies between international investment law and policies to protect the environment, promote human rights, and facilitate sustainable development in poor countries, and

3) Contribute to the general debate concerning the legitimacy of international courts with a comprehensive case study and a new analytical framework for assessing the relationship between the activities of courts and treaty design.

The project started in September 2018 and ends in August 2022.

The full project description can be accessed here.

About the project

The project will study the extent to which the significant growth of ITA during the last 30 years has led states to reassess their commitments under IIAs. Arguably, the disputes have shifted state attitudes and strategies towards IIAs: some states have sought to restrict commitments to foreign investors in new IIAs or to terminate or renegotiate existing IIAs. This project also aims to understand the extent to which shifting state attitudes influence decisions of tribunals. While courts are generally required to be impartial and independent, we expect arbitration tribunals to be responsive to shifts in state attitudes.

The project will focus on the relationship between IIAs and environmental protection, human rights and the sustainable development of countries facing poverty challenges. It will improve the ability of public authorities to respond to disputes in such settings. It will also seek to improve investors' understanding of how IIAs and disputes can affect countries and help them avoid harmful practices. The project will provide negotiators of IIAs with better tools for assessing consequences of signing, ratifying, revising or withdrawing from IIAs. The project is particularly relevant for Norway and its foreign investment policy due to the long-standing debate on how Norway's IIA policy.

Given the exceptionally high number of IIAs and disputes as well as the secrecy surrounding dispute settlement, the project is highly dependent on gathering data. The Project will establish two extensive databases and make these available to researchers, public authorities and others.

The project is organized through the following six work packages:

WP 1: Data generation and processing

The focus will be on database work and setting the stage for the project, including the carrying out of initial interviews. The primary task will be to establish the database on IIAs. The project will allow us to move forward more speedily in collaboration with the project’s cooperating partners.

WP 2: IIA and ITA design

This WP will:

  1. Identify and classify criticisms that have been directed against ITA and IIAs, and
  2. Identify, classify and discuss remedies that have been proposed in terms of redesign of the substantive, procedural or institutional provisions of IIAs.

Given the very strong domination of English and Western literature in the field, we will make a special effort at mapping academic contributions in other languages and from other parts of the world. In particular, we expect to find significant contributions from academics in countries that have been directly involved in IIA negotiations and ITA, in particular Latin America, Africa and South-East Asia.

WP 3: Environmental issues

The main focus of this WP will be on whether and how changes in IIAs affect ITA, both directly and indirectly. Since there has been very limited case law based on treaties with significant environmental clauses, our main focus is likely to remain on indirect effects. We will seek to explore the relative importance of IIA reform as compared to other factors. In light of, inter alia, the important discourse on environmental issues, the relatively wide-spread impact assessment of negotiation of IIAs, and the diffusion of environmental clauses in IIAs, we would expect there to be significant impact from treaty reform on ITA case outcome. The WP will aim to identify variation in outcome and try to identify possible explanatory factors.

WP 4: Human rights

The first task of this WP will be to map the diffusion of human rights related clauses in IIAs and identify potential explanatory factors for their (non-)inclusion. The different trajectories of IIA reform in relation to environmental and human rights provide a good basis for exploring the causal relationships between ITA and IIA reforms in these two fields. This WP will build on findings in WP 3 regarding diffusion of environmental clauses in IIAs, and use similarities and differences between the two issue areas to further determine the relevance and importance of ITA as a causal factor.

WP 5: The potential of IIAs to contribute to sustainable development of LDCs

This WP will build on two contrary views: those who argue that it is wrong to regard investment law as a form of development law, and those who see an important role for international investment law to promote development in developing countries. First, the WP will explore and seek to explain patterns of diffusion of IIAs and investment protection clauses among LDCs. Secondly, in light of the low participation of LDCs in ITA, this WP will set out to investigate the extent to which there is evidence that investors use threats of ITA or (threats of) international commercial arbitration in the context of disputes with such countries.

WP 6: Lessons to be learned

This WP will also look beyond international investment law and explore whether and under what conditions the findings regarding the interaction between ITA and IIAs are relevant for other fields of international law.

The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council under FRIPRO, project no. 276009.


  • Malcolm Langford; Daniel Behn & Runar Hilleren Lie (2020). Computational stylometry: predicting the authorship of investment treaty awards, In Ryan Whalen (ed.),  Computational Legal Studies - The Promise and Challenge of Data-Driven Research.  Edward Elgar Publishing.  ISBN 978 1 78897 744 9.  3.  s 53 - 76
  • Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi & Laura Létourneau-Tremblay (2020). A Question of Impartiality: Who are the Dissenting Arbitrators in Investment Treaty Arbitration?, In Freya Baetens (ed.),  Identity and Diversity on the International Bench: Who is the Judge?.  Oxford University Press.  ISBN 9780198870753.  Chapter 15.  s 280 - 312
  • Chiara Giorgetti; Laura Letourneau-Tremblay; Daniel Behn & Malcolm Langford (2020). Special Issue: Reforming International Investment Arbitration - An Introduction. The Law & Practice of International Courts and Tribunals.  ISSN 1569-1853.  18, s 303- 313
  • Daniel Behn; Malcolm Langford & Laura Letourneau-Tremblay (2020). Empirical Perspectives on Investment Arbitration: What Do We Know? Does It Matter?. Journal of World Investment & Trade.  ISSN 1660-7112.  21, s 188- 250
  • Malcolm Langford; Michele Potestà; Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler & Daniel Behn (2020). UNCITRAL and Investment Arbitration Reform: Matching Concerns and Solutions. Journal of World Investment & Trade.  ISSN 1660-7112.  21, s 167- 187
  • José Manuel Álvarez Zárate; Crina Baltag; Daniel Behn; Jonathan Bonnitcha; Anna De Luca; Holger Hestermeyer; Malcolm Langford; Loukas Mistelis; Clara Lopez Rodriguez; Gregory Shaffer & Simon Weber (2020). Duration of investor-state dispute settlement proceedings. Journal of World Investment & Trade.  ISSN 1660-7112.  21, s 300- 335
  • Tarald Laudal Berge & Taylor St. John (2020). Asymmetric diffusion: World Bank ‘best practice’ and the spread of arbitration in national investment laws. Review of International Political Economy.  ISSN 0969-2290.  28, s 584- 610
  • Tarald Laudal Berge (2020). Dispute by Design? Legalization, Backlash, and the Drafting of Investment Agreements. International Studies Quarterly.  ISSN 0020-8833.
  • Ole Kristian Fauchald (2020). International investment law in support of the right to development?. Leiden Journal of International Law.  ISSN 0922-1565.
  • Malcolm Langford; Daniel Friedrich Behn & Ole Kristian Fauchald (2018). Backlash and State Strategies in International Investment Law, In Tanja Aalberts & Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen (ed.),  The Changing Practices of International Law.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 978-1-108-42597-1.  4.
  • Daniel Behn (2018). Performance of investment treaty arbitration, In Geir Ulfstein; Theresa Squatrito; Oran R. Young & Andreas Føllesdal (ed.),  The Performance of International Courts and Tribunals.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 9781108348768.  Chapter 3.  s 77 - 113

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  • Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi; Daniel Behn & Malcolm Langford (ed.) (2020). Adjudicating Trade and Investment Disputes: Convergence or Divergence?. Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 1108487408.  320 s.

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  • Laura Létourneau-Tremblay (2021). Recent International Investment Treaty Practice and Environmental Protection: Fit for Purpose?.
  • Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi; Daniel Behn & Malcolm Langford (2020). Assessing Convergence in International Economic Disputes - A Framework, In Daniel Behn; Malcolm Langford & Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi (ed.),  Adjudicating Trade and Investment Disputes: Convergence or Divergence?.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 1108487408.  1.  s 1 - 18
  • Malcolm Langford; Cosette Creamer & Daniel Behn (2020). Regime Responsiveness in International Economic Disputes, In Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi; Daniel Behn & Malcolm Langford (ed.),  Adjudicating Trade and Investment Disputes: Convergence or Divergence?.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 1108487408.  10.  s 244 - 284
  • Tarald Laudal Berge & Taylor St John (2020). Why Do States Consent to Arbitration in National Investment Laws?. Investment Treaty News Quarterly.  ISSN 2519-8467.  11, s 12- 16
  • Ole Kristian Fauchald & Daniel Behn (2019). World peace and international investment: the role of investment treaties and arbitration, In Cecilia Marcela Bailliet (ed.),  Research Handbook on International Law and Peace.  Edward Elgar Publishing.  ISBN 9781788117463.  chapter 90.  s 182 - 218
  • Laura Letourneau-Tremblay (2019). Counterclaims and Investors’ Obligations: New Paradigm?.
  • Laura Letourneau-Tremblay (2019). Arbitration's Relationship to Policy and Doctrinal Research.
  • Ole Kristian Fauchald (2019). The relationship between Foreign Direct Investment, the Right to Development and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Runar Hilleren Lie (2019). Does change matter? A computational study of ISDS actors’ response to change.
  • Laura Letourneau-Tremblay (2019). Interdisciplinarity and International Economic Law: Diverse Approaches in Research and Practice.
  •  (2019). Investment Arbitration and its Discontents: An Empirical Assessment.
  •  (2019). Russian glossary - Academic forum on ISDS.
  • Ole Kristian Fauchald (2019). Mihir Kanade. The Multilateral Trading System and Human Rights: A Governance Space Theory on Linkages. European journal of international law.  ISSN 0938-5428.  30, s 694- 702
  • Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi & Laura Letourneau-Tremblay (2018). Who are the Dissenting Arbitrators in International Investment Treaty Arbitration?.
  • Maksim Usynin (2018). Does Nationality Matter? Arbitral Background and the Universality of the International Investment Regime..
  • Ole Kristian Fauchald (2018). The Multilateral Trading System and International Human Rights. A Governance Space Theory on Linkages.

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Tags: Investment, Legitimacy, Environment, Human Rights
Published Sep. 25, 2018 11:10 AM - Last modified Nov. 19, 2020 9:43 AM