April 30, 2018 | Pepperdine Law student Carson Bennett served as a delegate to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). The session took place April 23-27, 2018 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.
Delegations from 83 countries and 50 observer institutions attended the session to discuss Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform. Carson sat as a co-delegate on behalf of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ) along with Meredith Craven, an associate at Chaffetz Lindsey. The meeting at the UN was packed with the leading arbitrators and practitioners from all over the world. A short list to showcase the expertise in the room includes: Judge Charles Brower (a former member of the Iran-US Claims Tribunal and Judge ad hoc at the International Court of Justice), Professor Salim Moollan, Gabrielle Koffman-Koler (President-elect of ICCA), the Secretary General of ICSID, and many other distinguished public servants.
The UNCITRAL meeting was a momentous occasion in international investment arbitration where nation states gathered to discuss the virtues (and failings) of the current system comprised of 3000+ international investment treaties. For those not familiar with Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), nation states promise foreign investors certain protections in order to attract more investment in the country. These promises are enshrined in investment treaties or trade agreements (e.g. NAFTA, TPP) and usually include promises that the countries won’t treat foreign investors worse than domestic investors and will not expropriate the investments. When a country violates one of these promises the investor can invoke the treaty and arbitrate a claim directly against the country itself.
Carson first became interested in international arbitration by competing on Pepperdine’s International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Team (ICAM). He argued at the Foreign Direct Investment Moot in 2017 and went on to take an Investment Treaty Disputes taught by well-respected arbitrator, Professor Jack Coe. Carson sought to turn his academic training into practical, real-world experience.
“It was an honor just to be in the room,” Carson said. “I was surrounded by arbitration legends.”
Though this phase of UNCITRAL’s work was dedicated to identifying concerns with the present system (and not debating solutions), it was only natural for delegations to offer potential solutions as they diagnosed systemic problems. One of the frequent proposals was to create an International Investment Court composed of a permanent judicial body and an appellate mechanism. “This is a radical change from the present system, but my reading of the room is that the Investment Court (first proposed by the E.U.) is gaining momentum.” The creation of any such International Investment Court (or Multilateral Investment Court), is still years away. Carson said he looks forward to working in the field and seeing the practice evolve. “If the Multilateral Investment Court does come to fruition, I will fondly remember the genesis of the court in those debates on the floor of the UN.”
Pepperdine holds the distinction of being the #1 law school in Dispute Resolution and is one of the few law schools in America that offers an LLM degree in International Commercial Arbitration. For more information on the LLM in International Commercial Arbitration, please click here.