Articles Developments in PIL Journals Scholarship

International & Comparative Law Quarterly: Issue 1 of 2021

The new issue of International & Comparative Law Quarterly (Volume 70, Issue 1) is out. Some of the articles relate to private international law. Their abstracts are provided below. The whole issue is available here.

Roy Goode, Creativity and Transnational Commercial Law: From Carchemish to Cap Town

This article examines the creative aspects of a range of international commercial law instruments which have in common that they seek to bypass traditional doctrine in order to increase commercial efficiency and ease of transacting. In short, the purpose of the harmonising measure is functional in that it seeks to overcome a serious obstacle to cross-border trade by providing commercially sensible solutions to typical problems regardless whether this disturbs established legal theory, which should always the servant of the law, not its master. Creativity applies not only to the formulation of an instrument but also to its interpretation. Those entrusted with preparing a commentary on the detail of such an instrument are likely to face difficult issues of interpretation which may take years to surface and may only be resolved by a willingness to risk error in order to provide the reader with clear guidance rather than sheltering behind the presentation of alternative interpretations, while at the same time resisting the temptation to ascribe to words in a convention the meaning they would have under one’s own national law.

At least one of the instruments examined was conceptually flawed; it is mentioned to highlight the danger of over-ambition in delineating the sphere of application of the convention concerned. Undisciplined creativity comes at a cost. Another convention, and a highly successful one, is referred to only to demonstrate the value of creative ambiguity.

Enrico Partiti, Polycentricity and Polyphony in International Law: Interpreting the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights

Complex multi-actors and multi-level governance structures have emerged in areas that were traditionally exclusively the preserve of the State and treaty-making. The adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) affirmed a corporate responsibility to respect human rights to be implemented through human rights due diligence (HRDD), ie via management processes. The open-ended character of the UNGP generated the emergence of other soft instruments offering guidance to corporations in structuring HRDD. This contribution conceptualises the UNGP from the perspective of regulation as a principles-based exercise in polycentric governance reliant on regulatory intermediaries for interpretation. It then assesses the role of various sui generis normative instruments in providing interpretation to the UNGP and, how the presence of an additional layer of interpretative material contributes to the institutionalisation of responsible corporate conduct. The analysis of instruments drafted by international, non-governmental and business organisations reveals both a decentralising tension between different intermediaries due to disagreements and divergence concerning the precise extent of corporate human rights responsibilities, as well as attempts to centralise the interpretation of the UNGP. The article concludes by recommending some caution towards the employment of polycentric governance regimes and their lack of centralised interpretive authority in this domain of international law and suggests possible ways to formally establish centralised interpretation.

Vid Prislan, Judicial Expropriation in International Investment Law

This article examines the notion of judicial takings in international law and its reflection in the practice of investment tribunals. It takes stock of the already significant body of arbitral jurisprudence dealing with expropriation claims grounded in, or relating to, the acts or omissions of courts, with a view to developing a coherent theory of judicial expropriations. It is suggested that, due to the courts’ specific role in the determination of the underlying proprietary rights that are the very object of international legal protection, judicial measures warrant different conceptual treatment from measures by other State organs. Traditional approaches to expropriation analysis do not take this sufficiently into account and therefore do not provide adequate tools for distinguishing legitimate judicial measures from undue interferences with investors’ rights. It is argued that a sui generisapproach is hence needed: where proprietary rights are primarily affected by the impugned judicial action, it is first necessary to determine whether such action is itself wrongful under international law, for only then can it be treated as an act of expropriation. However, the proper analytical approach will ultimately depend on the circumstances of each case and traditional approaches, such as the sole effects doctrine, may still be appropriate where the judicial injury actually flows from wrongful legislative or executive conduct.

Mmiselo Freedom Qumba, Assessing African Regional Investment Instruments and Investor-State Dispute Settlement

This article examines the rejection of the International Investor–State dispute (ISDS) system across the African continent and its replacement with a range of domestic and regional alternatives. It assesses the advantages of the two principal options for African countries: retaining the current ISDS system, or using local courts and regional tribunals. To this end, the dispute resolution mechanisms proposed in the Pan-African Investment Code, the 2016 Southern African Development Community Finance and Investment Protocol, the SADC model BIT, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Economic Community of West African States and East African Community investment agreements and domestic approaches are critically examined. The argument is then advanced that African countries should not abandon ISDS because replacing it with isolated domestic or regional mechanisms does not reduce any of the risks. In particular, for foreign investors, the risk associated with the adjudication of investment disputes in potentially biased, politically influenced domestic courts may prove too high. African host nations, in turn, risk sending out the wrong message concerning their commitment to the protection of foreign investments. Instead of veering off course, perhaps the time has come for African States to display the political will to remain within the ISDS system and contribute to its reform from within.

The issue also contains review, by Nahel Asfour, of Contract Law in Contemporary International Commerce: Considerations on the Complex Relationship between Legal Process and Market Process in the New Era of Globalisation by Gianluigi Passarelli, Nomos: Baden-Baden 2019. Other views on the book have been expressed by Chukwuma Okoli on the Conflictoflaws blog.

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