The International Court System: A Solution to the Crisis in Investor-State Arbitration?




Economic and trade agreements, investor-state dispute settlement, investor-state arbitration, investment court system, multilateral investment court


Most known investor-state disputes are referred to a form of international arbitration known as investor-state arbitration (ISA) or investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The rest are referred to domestic arbitration or litigation before the courts of host states. The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is the largest ISDS institution, having handled 829 out of 1190 cases by December 2021. However, in recent years the ISDS regime has faced challenges that have reached crisis proportions. States have responded to these challenges in different ways. For example, during 2014 the European Union (EU) intended to provide for ISDS in its anticipated trade agreements with the United States of America and Canada. In preparation the EU held public consultations wherein the public was invited to comment on whether ISDS could be used in these agreements. Over 90 per cent of the voters rejected the inclusion of ISDS therein. In response the EU abandoned ISDS and created a bilateral Investment Court System (ICS). The final death knell for ISDS in the EU came in 2018 and 2021 when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that ISDS among EU states is unlawful and incompatible with its legal order. This paper aims to assess the legal nature of the ICS, as well as whether the ICS can resolve the challenges that face ISDS worldwide. The paper concludes that firstly, the ICS is a hybrid of a court and a tribunal; secondly, that the ICS fails to fully address all the challenges faced by ISDS. It is a work in progress that must be interrogated further and be improved upon over time.


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Author Biography

Tinyiko Lawrence Ngobeni, University of Zululand

Senior Lecturer University of Zululand, South Africa.




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How to Cite

Ngobeni, T. L. (2024). The International Court System: A Solution to the Crisis in Investor-State Arbitration?. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 27, (Published on 17 January 2024) pp 1–35.




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