Reforming World Bank Dispute Resolution: ICSID in Context

During a tumultuous moment in history with shifts in power and politics, international dispute settlement stands at a crossroads. In theory, international dispute settlement should not institutionalize abuses of power, rely upon a monolithic one-size-fits-all model, or be a waste of resources, which will inevitably generate stakeholder dissatisfaction. Rather, dispute resolution should reflect both a commitment to the rule of law and equal treatment that sustains nuanced, fair, and just procedures most likely to provide results of substantive quality. Against this backdrop and with the major reforms concluded in July 2022, this article explores the reality of dispute resolution at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) using an evidence-based, historical lens. Rather than distort ICSID’s past to offer cognitive ease, this article uses primary sources to understand dispute resolution at the World Bank and the broader implications for international dispute settlement and alternative dispute resolution. Using an evidence-based, historical lens to promote an accurate understanding of procedural and substantive distinctions, international investment law and international dispute resolution can facilitate accurate, useful, and responsive reform, rather than letting myopia, manipulation, and mismanaged expectations control the future of international dispute settlement.