Looking at Investment Arbitration through Roland Barthes’ Eyes (IEL Collective Symposium II)

By Dr. Paolo Vargiu, Lecturer in Law (University of Leicester)

Roland Barthes was never particularly interested in the law. Were he alive today, however, it is hard to imagine that he would be a strong supporter of a regime like investment arbitration – a system which, in spite of its best original intentions, has long been exposed by its critics for the lack of balance in rights and obligations and the abuse of the mechanism to increase the already disproportionate power of multinational corporations vis-à-vis the state where they invest. However, his literary production can nonetheless serve as a model for inquiring on aspects of the investment arbitral regime that remain somehow at the margins of the scholarly critique.

In his essay “Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers” (1971), Barthes theorised an imaginary contract between teachers and students, with specific tasks and expectations brought into the contractual relationship by both parties. Barthes’ teachers are neither mere providers of information nor simply the means used by the school to educate students: instead, they are at once erudite, educators, mentors, instructors and tutors. The term magister may be more appropriate to define Barthes’ teachers for they carry the burden to not only instruct on specific tasks, but also to represent schools of thought, and to act as guides, almost gurus, towards enlightenment, knowledge, and skill. They are vested, in other words, with the duty of developing the community they guide; and, rather than self-conferred, it is a duty given to them by such community. (more…)

The IEL Collective Symposium II – Disrupting Narratives on International Economic Law: Theory, Pedagogy and Practice

By Dr Clair Gammage & Dr Amaka Vanni, For and on behalf of the IEL Collective

In 2019, a group of scholars in the discipline of International Economic Law (IEL) launched the IEL Collective to provide a space for critical reflections of the regulation and conduct of states, international organisations and private actors in economic governance within and across state boundaries. International economic law (IEL) as an arena of scholarship, policy and practice has developed exponentially over the past three decades, evolving from a sub-field of public international law into a multi-layered, highly specialised discipline of its own. As a field of study, IEL encompasses a broad range of issues relating to the law, regulation and governance of the global economy, including trade, investment, finance, intellectual property, business regulation, energy and competition law. It is a discipline that intersects with other disciplines, such as international and domestic labour law, human rights, and environment as recognised by the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, in the discipline of IEL there remain significant questions over the plurality and diversity of methodologies, voices and viewpoints. (more…)

A Governance Revolution or Costly Distraction? Reassessing the promises of blockchain for public procurement governance

By Prof Albert Sanchez-Graells, Professor of Economic Law (University of Bristol Law School).

Blockchain or, more generally, decentralised ledger technologies (DLTs), are capturing the attention of policymakers. ‘Blockchain’ has become shorthand to refer to technology usually identified with the properties of a decentralised, trustless and immutable (or at least, tamper-proof) mechanism for information verification and recording that can enable self-executing digital transactions between anonymous parties (‘smart contracts’).

Blockchain’s touted tamper-proofness and potential to enable smart contracts are driving initiatives that seek to create automated ‘trust in trustless environments’ for public sector use cases, in particular concerning activities highly-exposed to corruption risks and/or the automation of administrative procedures devoid of discretion.

There are high economic stakes at play in public procurement—which represents around 12% of GDP and over a third of public expenditure in OECD countries, and even higher proportions in other economies. Coupled with the growing (over)reliance of policymakers on business consultants, the hype around blockchain—and, more generally, about public procurement 4.0—is perhaps particularly intense in this field of GovTech and RegTech.

Some legal scholars are rather optimistically jumping on the ‘disruptive technologies bandwagon’ and identifying blockchain as a main tool to increase the probity and efficiency of procurement governance at a national level.1 Some officially-backed ‘visions for the future’ go as far as promising blockchain-supported global e-procurement platforms capable of covering the entirety of procurement transactions carried out worldwide.

This is creating a set of expectations about how blockchain will revolutionise public procurement governance that does not translate into real action. Even further, I submit, blockchain is and will remain structurally inapt to generate such a governance revolution, for several reasons. (more…)

Brexit: A climactic decision?

By Ms Chris Willmore, Reader in Sustainability and Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

Europaflagge
Europaflagge

With the Referendum being imminent, the Environment has singularly failed to make itself an issue in the BREXIT debate. Yet it is impossible to explore any aspect of environmental law in the UK without encountering European Law.  It is therefore no surprise that environmental lawyers and environmental groups have been queuing up to express concerns about the implications of BREXIT – Margherita Piericcini’s Cabot Institute blog on the impact on wildlife and habitats is an example.

So why has the environment not become a key issue?  I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group’s event ‘A Climactic Decision: Brexit’s impact on the UK’s climate and environment’ at the Houses of Parliament earlier this month in the hope of finding out why. (more…)