NEWS

altThe Virtual Institute, with funding from the Government of Finland, organized a workshop to train instructors on international investment agreements at Ethiopian university member, Addis Ababa University (AAU), February 21-23.

The workshop, conducted by Claudia Salgado, of  UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise, aimed at building the capacity of instructors teaching investment law, and to provide a forum for the participants to share their experiences with UNCTAD and with each other. The ultimate goal is for the participants to use and share the knowledge they obtained through the workshop with their students.

The workshop was held for two and a half days within the premises of the Addis Ababa University. It was opened by the Dean of the School of Law, Zekarias Kennea.

On the first day, the participants discussed the trends in foreign direct investment (FDI) and international investment agreements (IIA). This was followed by national experience on the net work of international investment agreements, which was delivered by Charra Tesfaye, from Mekelle University. The scope and definition of investment and investor was also discussed in the first day. The day’s discussion was finalized by looking into the requirements for admission and establishment of investment.

Two important issues in the world of investment agreements, treatment of investment and expropriation, were points of discussion in the second day. International investment agreements contain provisions requiring signatory states to extend to the foreign investment and the investor a treatment not less favorable than the treatment given to the national investors and investments (in the case of national treatment requirement), and a treatment not less favorable than the treatment given to investor and investments from a third country (in the case of most favored nation (MFN) treatment). The debate whether to rely on the MFN clause in order to incorporate procedural issues in investment disputes was one issue discussed by the participants. The objective standard of fair and equitable treatment which is found in almost all international investment agreements was also discussed.

Governments take different measures against foreign investments, short of direct taking. Whether these measures could be considered as expropriation is a point of debate in international investment tribunals. The participants in the workshop also considered these issues. The day’s discussion was finalized by an introduction to dispute settlement in IIAs.

A more detailed discussion on the different investment dispute settlement mechanisms was made on the final day of the workshop. Participants were given both hypothetical and real cases to discuss how the different principles and rules in IIAs are implemented in real life. These discussions were made in groups.

The topics covered in the workshop helped the participants to get new knowledge in the area of IIAs and acquire new skills in teaching the course. Yibeltal Meswat from Wollo University, indicated the workshop was helpful in that he obtained the necessary knowledge and skill to teach the course. He also indicated that he will include the knowledge he got from the workshop in teaching the course.

Another participant, Wubeshet Kumlachew from Gonadar University, said that the workshop was very interesting as it enabled him to get new knowledge in the area of international investment and enabled him to update the knowledge he had. He also indicated that he will reconsider the way he has been teaching the course and adopt a similar approach to the one used by Salgado.

Another participant, Kamil Abdu from Jijiga University, indicated that he will teach the course in the coming semester and the workshop has helped him to know more on the issue of international investment. He also appreciated the approach used by the UNCTAD expert in delivering the training and decided to use a similar approach in his teaching. He then added that the workshop would have been much better if practitioners from the investment authority in Ethiopia had been able to take part. 

The considerable progress in economic and social development in Ethiopia has been attributed to the adoption and implementation of favorable legislations, policies and strategies. One of such legislations is the investment law, which aims at attracting foreign investment to the country. As a result of the investor-friendly environment created in the country through, among others, the adoption of the investment law, the amount of FDI in the country has been increasing the past years.

 The newly adopted nationwide curriculum for legal education in the country has also reflected the importance of FDI and knowing the laws and policies related to FDI both at the national and international level. The new curriculum requires students who study investment law at the undergraduate level to have an understanding of the international framework for foreign investment. Issues of international investment law are also covered in the graduate program offered by the AAU, School of Law.

Currently there are more than 20 Law Schools (Faculties) in the country that are implementing the new curriculum for undergraduate law students. However, many of these schools do not have an academic staff member having a specialization in the area of investment, making the teaching-learning process a little difficult. It was with the view to address this gap that the AAU School of Law requested the cooperation of the UNCTAD Virtual Institute (Vi) to hold a workshop on International investment agreements for instructors teaching investment law.

AAU became a core member of the Vi in 2009, and has since benefitted from several Vi services in the areas of research, provision of publications and training. 

Research activities in the School are limited particularly in the areas of international trade and investment law. Some of the reasons for this state of affairs include the lack of access to pertinent resources and poor Internet connectivity, among others. In this regard, the Vi granted two fellowships for instructors in the School of Law during which they were able to use the rich resources of UNCTAD and other international organizations like the WTO and WIPO to work on their research projects. The fellows were also able to get research guidance from UNCTAD experts.

The Vi  also acquired books on international trade and investment law for AAU, which despite its being the oldest higher education institution in the country, is rather poor in resources for research in the area of international economic law. This will help instructors as well as students in the post graduate program to conduct research and also to keep informed on new developments in this dynamic field.