UNCITRAL meetings on ISDS dominated by arbitration industry

25 May 2018: Melinda St. Louis from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch has published a summary of the recent United National Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) meeting on ISDS reform, which was dominated by private lawyers and arbitrators.

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch were one of many civil society groups not granted official observer status at the April 2018 meeting in New York. However she was able to attend the meeting as part of another civil society group.

AFTINET has covered previously UNCITRAL meetings on ISDS reform on our website.  

St. Louis reports that, as public opposition to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) grows, those who benefit financially from this mechanism – including ‘law firms, tribunalists, hedge funds and private equity firms’ – are scrambling to protect it. UNCITRAL meetings about the potential need to ‘reform’ ISDS have been reluctantly called, but she notes these reviews are clearly one-sided, and dominated by the arbitration industry.

Although UNCITRAL’s stated aim is for a ‘balance representation of major viewpoints’ at these meetings, St. Louis reports that 37 out of 44 of the non-government observer organisations were private lawyers and arbitrators. She writes:

The takeaway from the UNCITRAL's process for its so-called "reform" discussions thus far is that lawyers making millions in ISDS cases are welcomed, while the voices of the millions of people whose lives are harmed by ISDS cases brought by multinational corporations are barely an afterthought.”