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Gravity and Grace: Foreign Investments and Cultural Heritage in International Investment Law

By: Valentina Vadi

Globalization and international economic governance have promoted dialogue and interaction among nations, potentially increasing cultural diversity and providing the funds to recover and preserve cultural heritage. However, these phenomena can also jeopardize cultural diversity. Foreign direct investments in the extraction of natural resources have the potential to change cultural landscapes, destroy monuments, and erase memories. In parallel, international investment law constitutes a legally binding and highly effective regime that demands that states promote and facilitate foreign direct investment. Does the existing legal framework adequately protect cultural heritage vis-à-vis the economic interests of foreign investors? To address this question, this Article complements traditional tools of legal analysis with a novel, interdisciplinary, philosophical perspective. This Article relies on the thought of Simone Weil (1909– 1943) to examine how cultural and economic forces can be balanced in international law. A philosopher, mystic, and resistance fighter, Weil was a defining figure of the twentieth century. While no study has highlighted the relevance of her thought for international law yet, her philosophy can help clarify legal concepts, reflect on what principles ought to be accepted, and identify future directions of the field. This Article relies on her philosophy for investigating the interplay between foreign investments and cultural heritage in international investment law and arbitration. In light of Weil’s philosophical insights, this Article also examines recent arbitrations and proposes three legal tools to foster a better balance between economic and cultural interests in international investment law and arbitration.

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