Competition funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Law

Start dates

October 2024

Application deadline

19 January 2024

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2024. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised Professor Leïla Choukroune and Dr Andrii Zharikov.

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive £2,000 for fieldwork purposes.

Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.

The work on this project could involve:

  • How to define Local Communities in the context of International Investment Law (IIL)  and Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)?
  • Have Local Communities been impacted by ISDS and How have they impacted ISDS?
  • What are the narrative and mechanisms for Local Communities’ advocacy for IIL- ISDS?
  • What are the narrative and mechanisms for Local Communities’ advocacy against IIL- ISDS?
  • Is ISDS an appropriate mechanism to address foreign investment disputes involving local communities – what are the alternatives?
  • How to integrate voices from the below in IEL production and implementation?


In the past fifteen years, from Peru to Ecuador, from Nigeria to Indonesia, - with multiple natural resources related disputes -, but also from Spain to Germany - with the Vattenfall nuclear case, and the European Commission’s proposal for a coordinated withdrawal of the Energy Charter Treaty, local communities have played a key role in the denunciation of international investment law and dispute mechanisms. 

While International Investment Law (IIL) and Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) have arguably impacted individuals, the involvement of local communities in IIL and ISDS has also influenced the design and resolution of the most recent International Investment Agreements (IIAs) and disputes. This new engagement with the law, has prompted the reaction of transnational institutions, including arbitral bodies like to International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), to better integrate voices from the below.  The impact of this novel advocacy has not been contested, but the role of local communities to trigger, enable, or neutralize the effects of IIL and ISDS has been overlooked by international legal scholarship. 


This research seeks to sketch the rich encounter of actors, tools, and stances not only when the reform of IIL and ISDS and its operation are at stake, but especially when domestic measures such as constitutional reforms, law making, sovereign commitments and administrative or judicial interpretations impact directly on the articulation of the system, thereby provoking civil society’s reactions. There are remarkable broad public considerations regarding the functioning of the system as structured from inwards as compared to the usual approach of intervention of interested parties engaged in multilateral reform discussions and international arbitral proceedings. Ultimately, the diverse set of actors, tools and narratives interacting inwards enables the unrestrained deployment of transnational mechanisms for foreign investment protection. In sum, it is relevant to inquiry as to what extent local communities contribute to shape as well as the weight given to its participation under IIL and ISDS. This discussion aims to portray whether communities’ influences the functioning of IIL and ISDS and pointing out the stages where such participation has been more effective.

Finally, the research will approach the issues of recognition of local communities in IIL and ISDS creation and implementation. It will indeed address the issues coming to play when these communities’ legitimate concerns supersede the broad consensus of investors, capital-exporting, capital-importing countries, and international organizations assuming foreign investment as a road towards modernization in which local communities play a passive role. This confrontation unfolds the question as to whether ISDS is an appropriate mechanism to govern foreign investment involving local communities and whether alternatives can be defined. In doing so, it questions the very idea of justice and how non-State actors could be integrated in quasi-judicial and judicial processes better serving their needs for reparation and retribution.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Experience in field work research in/with the Global South would be appreciated.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Leïla Choukroune ( and Dr Andrii Zharikov ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code LLAW8900124 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.