John G. Merrills Memorial Conference – “The Changing Character of International Dispute Settlement, Prospects and Challenges
As the late Professor Merrills wrote in his seminal book International Dispute Settlement (6th ed, CUP, 2017), ‘the peaceful settlement of international disputes is the most critical issue of our time.’ Currently, we witness the exponential growth of disputes in areas as diverse as human rights, environment, trade and investment. Contemporary disputes are also more complex, involving multiple disputants, norms and dispute settlement institutions (legal or non-legal). The expansion of the system of international dispute settlement (IDS) through the multiplication of IDS institutions with overlapping competences has exacerbated the risk of fragmentation and of conflicting outcomes. The development of international law in new fields such as cyber law and space law raises the question of whether existing IDS institutions are adequate or whether new institutions are required. Questions are also raised as to whether existing dispute settlement mechanisms have the legitimacy to deal with issues involving public interests, such as health, environment, and human rights. These tensions are compounded by the resurgence of nationalism, protectionism, and isolationism.The immediate question is how the IDS system can address these challenges in order to maintain world peace and international legality. To this end, the Sheffield Centre for International and European Law (SCIEL) at the University of Sheffield with support from the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) is organising a one-day conference on 6 December 2019 at the University of Sheffield bringing together academics and practitioners who are experts in different fields of dispute settlement. The conference aims to identify ways and make proposals as to how the IDS system can address the above mentioned challenges and how it can evolve and adapt in order to preserve peace and international legality.