Book review: Xu Qian, Water Services Disputes in International Arbitration: Reconsidering the Nexus of Investment Protection, Environment, and Human Rights

Date01 February 2021
Published date01 February 2021
Subject MatterBook Review
Book Review
Xu Qian, Water Services Disputes in International Arbitration: Reconsidering
the Nexus of Investment Protection, Environment, and Human Rights. The
Netherlands: Kluwer Law International BV, 2020, xiv+280 pp., GBP
156.51. ISBN 978-94-035-2203-6.
Water is the most essential natural resource for all living beings including humans
as it is very essential to sustain lives without possible substitute. As a result, the
United Nations (UN) also recognised access to water and sanitation services as a
human right. At the same time, climate change and overpopulation are making
water an ‘exhaustible natural resource’ more than ever. In order to balance between
such growing demand and need to provide sustainable supply, many governments
heavily invest in water and sanitation service infrastructure. However, because of
the huge financing gaps, they turn to multinational corporations and investment
funds to bridge such gaps and modernise the existing water and sanitation services
Against this background, Dr Xu Qian wrote this book to explore the legal
consequences of the multi-faceted nature of water and sanitation services. Instead
of arguing whether water is a public good or an economic good, the book focuses
on analysis of international law applicable to cross-border investment in water
and sanitation services. In particular, the author discusses cases and literatures in
international investment law involving water and sanitation services.
In Chapter 2, the author starts with whether water and sanitation services are
covered as ‘investment’ under investment treaties. Next, the author conducts anal-
ysis of factual backgrounds of the investment disputes involving water and sanita-
tion services, and provides an overview of complex relationship between the
stakeholders. She then explains the roles of customary international law, general
principles of international law and soft laws. The author further discusses ‘inter-
actions’ between different international legal regimes governing water and sanita-
tion services, and she argues that the regime interaction in water regulation will
‘raise the substantial question concerning the role of human rights and environ-
mental protection in international investment protection’. The author acknowl-
edges that the current international and domestic legal regimes show the ‘lack of
holistic approach to water service regulation’; therefore, the states resort to inter-
national investment law, which lead to emergence of investment treaty disputes.
In Chapter 3, the author focuses on ‘fragmentation’ of legal norms governing
international investment in water and sanitation services. She introduces ‘dual
Foreign Trade Review
56(1) 136–138, 2021
© 2020 Indian Institute of
Foreign Trade
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0015732520961251

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