Accountability Is an IO’s Jam? International organizations and immunity one year after Jam v. International Finance Corp

The Society's 114th Annual Meeting—and first Virtual Annual Meeting—took place June 25–26, 2020. The 2020 Annual Meeting theme, "The Promise of International Law," was an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of international law, while reaffirming our commitment to achieving its promise of a more just and peaceful world.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer suggested in his dissenting opinion in Jam v. IFC that the majority’s approach could open the flood gates to lawsuits against international organizations in domestic U.S. courts in ways that Congress did not intend and that would inhibit IOs from carrying out their essential functions. Some commentators welcomed this opening, finding promise in Jam as potentially leading to better accountability outcomes, in particular with respect to human rights abuses. Others predicted that the decision would encourage international organizations to improve their “alternative means” of dispute resolution, or even to take more drastic measures like amending their charters to strengthen or clarify immunity provisions. This Jam session will explore the promises of Jam one year since the landmark SCOTUS decision. What are IOs doing, if anything, to improve their internal justice systems? What are they doing to improve project management to prevent abuses or tortious conduct? Perhaps more important, what should IOs be doing? And if IOs are not taking action themselves, are there any signs that Justice Breyer’s prophesy that U.S. domestic courts would become more accessible to lawsuits against IOs could become true? Does the case still hold promise for victims to achieve accountability for alleged abuses by IOs?

Carla Ferstman, University of Essex
Kenna Graziano, Earth Rights International
Beatrice Lindstrom, Harvard Law School
Edward Chukwuemeke Okeke, World Bank Group
Pablo Adrian Arrocha Olabuenaga, Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN (Moderator)
Nancy L. Perkins, Arnold & Porter LLP

(Speaker organizations are shown as of June 2020)