For José Alvarez, Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law, 2011 has been a banner year for his scholarship on the rules governing international investment. Last week, the United Nations posted his lecture, “An Introduction to the Evolving International Investment Regime,” on its online audiovisual library. And earlier this year, he published two books on the topic: The Evolving International Investment Regime: Expectations, Realities, Options, which he co-edited, and The Public International Law Regime Governing International Investment, a compilation of lectures he delivered at the Hague Academy of International Law.

In these books and lectures, Alvarez discusses the legal regime for the transnational flow of capital made with the purpose of establishing a lasting interest in an enterprise located in another country – commonly called foreign direct investment (FDI). While the trade regime governed by the World Trade Organization “gets the bulk of scholarly attention,” Alvarez notes in his UN lecture, “FDI is considered to be the principal engine of economic globalization because of its sheer quantity.” And, he says, FDI “defines the current age of globalization for a more significant qualitative reason” – because of the economic, sociological, and cultural consequences it can have for the host state. One argument Alvarez advances is that the current international investment regime should no longer be considered a form of territorial "empire" imposed by rich capital exporters on capital importers. For better and for worse, Alvarez says, all nations are now entwined in a complex, multidirectional flow of FDI. “FDI does not just drive economic development,” he says. “When it stops, it stops the economy of the world.”

International investment is not the only area of Alvarez's expertise. Last year, he was appointed as a special advisor on public international law to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. And his next contribution to the UN audiovisual library lecture series, created to make the teaching of prominent scholars available to a global audience, will be on human rights.

Posted on September 26, 2011