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Nicolas Angelet is professor of international law at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, a member of the Brussels Bar and an associate tenant of Doughty Street Chambers, London. He is appointed to the ICSID Panel of Arbitrators by the Republic of Burundi and to the ICSID Panel of Conciliators by the Kingdom of Belgium.
Nicolas has acted as a member of the ICSID ad hoc Committee in Victór Pey Casado and Foundation President Allende v. Republic of Chile, and as president of the Tribunals in ICSID cases Ayoub-Farid Michel Saab v. United Republic of Tanzania and in Venezuela Holdings, B.V. and others v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Before becoming an arbitrator, he acted as counsel in various investment arbitration and annulment cases, including Ping An v. Belgium.
Nicolas also has extensive experience in public international law litigation before domestic and international courts and tribunals. His areas of expertise cover all areas of international law, including international immunities, jurisdiction, the law of international organisations, human rights, sanctions, the law of armed conflict, territorial regimes, environmental law, the law of treaties, state responsibility, etc. Over the last years, Nicolas has also developed extensive expertise in international law on climate change.
Nicolas is the author of numerous publications on public international law.
Drawing from this extensive experience, Nicolas navigates the complexities of his practice with in-depth knowledge and an adaptive mindset.
What is the role of investment law and arbitration in the current volatile context?
The essential function is to provide reasonable stability to investors and states alike. In this dynamic, unpredictable era, long-term stability might seem impossible. To be sure, it cannot be achieved by maintaining the legal rules entirely unchanged. Orderly adaptation is required to guarantee renewed and long-term stability and legitimacy.
What challenges the current legal framework?
On the one hand, there are increasing geopolitical tensions and ensuing economic conflicts among states and alliances. On the other hand, there is the protection of the environment and measures against climate change, particularly, that impose great challenges for the foreseeable future.
How can we address these challenges adequately as counsel and adjudicators?
In public international law, and therefore investment law and arbitration, this requires in-depth knowledge in two areas. First, a proper understanding of the legal regimes that interact and, at times, compete with investment law, such as environmental and climate change law, human rights, etc. Second, strong expertise in the rules and principles of general international law, which govern the interactions between the different substantive regimes. This in-depth knowledge is essential for all stakeholders – investors, states, counsel, and arbitrators – to navigate the increasingly complex legal landscape.
You have a broad range of expertise, encompassing investment law and arbitration, and human rights and environmental law, among others. What is the common thread?
I have the privilege of serving as an arbitrator in investment law while acting as counsel in other fields of public international law, including international law on climate change and international human rights. My work as an arbitrator greatly benefits from my experience as counsel before various courts and tribunals, ranging from domestic courts in multiple countries over the European Court of Justice to the International Court of Justice. All these different views are equally enriching, and we can all benefit from a better understanding of other players in different areas.
How is arbitration adapting to the current Zeitgeist?
Where the public interest is involved, we must balance the quest for efficiency, which remains of great importance, with effectiveness and sustainability in dispute resolution.
In what ways are ICSID’s new regulations affecting investor-state arbitration proceedings?
The amended ICSID rules and regulations are excellent overall. In particular, much is to be expected from the new Mediation Rules and Regulations. They can significantly contribute to the efficiency, effectiveness, and legitimacy of investor-state dispute settlement. Mediation allows for transforming disputes. It causes the parties to consider the fundamental interests that underlie their stated positions. The parties’ real interests may prove compatible even where the stated positions are not. Mediation also causes the parties to broaden the debate beyond the scope of the legal dispute as it would be argued before an arbitral tribunal. It may, for instance, lead to including third parties, such as local authorities or communities, in the overall settlement of the conflict. The transformative potential of mediation is most promising for investor-state disputes. It allows for restoring the investor-state relationship, which is an essential aspect of sustainable development.
Is mediation compatible with the exercise of host state regulatory powers?
Unlike what is sometimes suggested, mediation can greatly assist in rights-based disputes, as opposed to merely interest-based ones. If well performed, mediation is not just about making concessions or splitting the baby. It should not necessarily cause the host state to renounce its public policy objectives underlying a disputed regulatory measure. Quite the opposite, transforming the dispute by broadening the terms of the debate will often lead the way to innovative solutions satisfying both the state’s and the investor’s interests. In addition, mediation can be combined with arbitration in many ways.