Chicago Journal of International Law

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Building on Daniel Abebe, Adam Chilton and Tom Ginsburg’s call for more social science research in international law, this Essay discusses ways in which social science research can be applied to inform reforms of international institutions. In the face of significant challenges to the current international legal order, active reform discussions have been ongoing concerning a number of international institutions. This Essay posits that in developing proposals to reform these international institutions, more attention should be paid to identify the causes of existing problems, which is important in an international setting where decision-making requires the consensus of multiple stakeholders. The social science approach can be useful in this regard. Using investor-state dispute settlement as an example, this Essay discusses how the social science approach can be applied to help understand the causes of the problem of excessive duration and costs of investor-state arbitration proceedings. Findings from social science research highlight the importance of mechanisms which insulate respondent state decision makers from domestic political pressure. These mechanisms deserve more attention in ongoing ISDS reform discussions.

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