The Changing Character of International Dispute Settlement: Prospects and Challenges

Daniel Franchini


The Sheffield Centre for International and European Law (SCIEL) launched a project in 2019 to assess how the system of international dispute settlement can address contemporary challenges in order to maintain world peace and international legality. These challenges derive, among others, from the exponential growth of international 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. 

In order to identify ways and make proposals as to how the IDS system can address these challenges and how it can evolve and adapt in order to preserve peace and international legality, SCIEL organised a conference dedicated to late Sheffield Professor John Merrills, which was held at the School of Law, University of Sheffield on 6 December 2019 and sponsored by the Society of Legal Studies. Twelve leading scholars and practitioners from five different countries met to discuss on a wide range of topics according to their specialisations. The conference was attended by more than 30 delegates including PGR students, academics and practitioners. The keynote address was delivered by Sir Michael Wood, Member of the United Nations International Law Commission and Barrister at Twenty Essex Chambers.

The proceedings of this conference, revised and updated in light of the discussion, will be collected in an edited volume which will include a number of additional contributions to offer a comprehensive, diverse, and original treatment of the topic. The book, which is bound to become a fundamental reference work for researchers and practitioners specialising in various fields of international dispute settlement, will be published by Cambridge University Press in late 2021/early 2022.


The Debate Between the European Parliament and the Commission on the Definition of Protected Designation of Origin: Why the Parliament Is Right, IIC 50, 5 (2019), 595 - 610 ( ; Sui Generis Geographical Indications for the Protection of Non-Agricultural Products in the EU: Can the Quality Schemes Fulfil the Task?, IIC - international review of intellectual property and competition law 51, 1 (2020), 31 - 69 (together with Flavia Guerrieri, Suelen Carls) (;

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