ICSID's membership has grown steadily since the ICSID Convention opened for signature in 1965. That is good for the governance of ICSID—and for international investment climates more broadly.
It is by now a familiar ritual—but one that still generates a palpable buzz. On one side of a long conference table are state representatives and, on the other, staff of ICSID and the World Bank. At the centre is a large, black-bound book, the original ICSID Convention, which contains a signature for each of ICSID's member states. With the dash of a pen by a head of state or minister of foreign affairs, ICSID welcomes a new member state.
Blink and you will miss it. But each signature marks an indelible milestone for ICSID, the world's leading institution for the resolution of international investment disputes.
Tunisia was the first country to sign the ICSID Convention in 1965, followed by the United Kingdom, Jamaica, Côte d'Ivoire, Pakistan, and Nigeria, along with 24 other countries the same year. That gives both a flavor of the global makeup of ICSID and a sense of the strong endorsement that ICSID received from the get-go.
Fast forward to more recent years and the ICSID Convention bears the signatures of representatives of Angola, Ecuador, Djibouti, Mexico, Nauru, Iraq, San Marino, Montenegro, and South Sudan. Today, there are 165 signatories to the ICSID Convention, 158 of which have ratified the Convention in accordance with their own constitutional procedures.
ICSID Membership—Why it Matters
As a member of ICSID, each state participates in the Administrative Council, ICSID's governing body.
The Administrative Council approves the ICSID budget and annual report, for example, and elects its leadership—the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretaries-General.
The Council also serves an important strategic role in ensuring that ICSID stays fit for purpose in an evolving global environment. This was seen most recently in the Council's approval this year of a major modernization of ICSID's rules of procedure for arbitration, mediation, conciliation, and fact-finding. Developed over a five-and-a-half-year period with ICSID's membership, the updated ICSID rules mark the most significant changes to ICSID procedures in over 50 years.
For individual states, membership signals a commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes with foreign investors. Membership itself does not bind states to address grievances at ICSID—this is done in standalone treaties, contracts, and domestic investment laws. But it nonetheless fosters the global legal framework for the impartial and efficient resolution of international investment disputes.
This is why, when the big black book is opened for a new signature, it stirs such a sense of occasion.