In recent years, the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has seen a burgeoning caseload and a broadening profile. A generation ago, the Centre saw only a handful of cases a year; virtually all of which arose out of consents to arbitration contained in contracts or investor-state agreements.1 In recent years, however, ICSID activity has expanded – primarily thanks to the tremendous growth in disputes brought pursuant to international investment treaties. In 2004, the Centre registered twenty-seven arbitration claims, only three of which did not arise out of investment treaties. Similarly, in 2005, for example, the Centre registered twenty-six arbitration claims, all but two of which stemmed from investment treaties.
The profile of the ICSID has risen with its popularity. Indeed, the Centre’s profile may have been enhanced not merely due to the rise in the number of disputes, but also thanks to the notoriety or high-stakes of certain disputes. Some of the more prominent ICSID arbitrations have included the long string of claims by foreign investors in the aftermath of Argentina’s financial crisis; a dispute arising out of the so-called Bolivian Water War; an expropriation claim filed by Dutch farmers against the Government of Zimbabwe; and a recent claim by a group of European mining companies challenging aspects of South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment policies.2