Gerard Sanders, General Counsel of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), is working to deepen ties between AIIB and Asia-Pacific regional arbitral hubs and other legal institutions to help facilitate coordination to promote infrastructure development.  In anticipation of his upcoming visit to the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) on February 21 for the AIIB Legal Seminar, Asia Law Portal interviewed him about these efforts, AIIB’s goals for 2019 and beyond, the role of the general counsel within multilateral development banks, and how law students might seek to pursue a career within a multilateral development bank:

You’ll be interviewed at the upcoming AIIB Legal Seminar in Hong Kong on February 21st.  What is the focus of the event and how is the AIIB working together with the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and other regional arbitration hubs to increase awareness of the intersection of the legal services sector and the AIIB to facilitate infrastructure development?

AIIB is still a fairly new institution – only three years old. As we have travelled around Asia, speaking to the legal community, it has become apparent there is still a big opportunity to raise awareness of the Bank, including its mission, mandate and legal framework. We are partnering with HKIAC to bring interested parties from the influential legal community in Hong Kong together to join us in conversation. We are already in discussions with the ICC, SIAC and Ministry of Law in Singapore, and other regional financial services and arbitration hubs, to reproduce this event in those jurisdictions.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2019 and beyond – what are AIIB’s key objectives in terms of facilitating infrastructure development — and where can the Asia-Pacific legal services sector be of assistance in helping to facilitate this development?

We are focusing on expanding capacity to provide quality service and value addition to our clients.  This will include entering new markets, piloting local currency financing and adding new financial products, such as guarantees. All of this work requires building up our team of high-caliber staff -including legal services – and fostering a shared corporate culture.

You previously served as General Counsel at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Deputy General Counsel at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). What unique challenges and opportunities are a part of being counsel within a multilateral development bank?  And what challenges and opportunities are unique to your role at AIIB?

Both IFAD, EBRD and AIIB are rule-of-law based multilateral institutions; with sovereign state members, governed by public international law.  They also all have an essential development mandate.  And are independent from the national laws and jurisdictions of their members.  This combination of key features is exceedingly challenging, combining rival pressures and legal considerations.  The answer is to impartially and responsibility represent the law and act with integrity.  It’s exciting and fulfilling work.  The uniqueness of the AIIB is the once-in-a-career opportunity to start-up a great multilateral development bank, building things from the ground-up, fit for purpose and the future, solving all the related unprecedented issues.

Hong Kong has recently been making a concerted effort to become a legal and deal-making hub for infrastructure development in the Asia-Pacific region.  How important are these efforts to the AIIB in helping you achieve your goals?

I would expect that Hong Kong will have an important role to play, as a place for court and arbitral proceedings. It is well positioned to do this because of the excellent laws and legal institutions, its demonstrated commitment to the rule of law and for their world class legal services.

What advice would you give current law students who might aspire to a career in a multilateral development bank?

Working in a multilateral development bank is a challenging and exciting choice. If you thrive in a multicultural environment and are motivated by the mission to improve the lives of people in developing countries, this is a very fulfilling job. Looking for opportunities to work in international organizations is a great way to start on a career path towards working at a bank like AIIB. Lawyers in international organizations need to speak and write fluent English, and other major UN languages are an advantage. They must be qualified in a national jurisdiction, but have studied international and comparative law, preferably in a different jurisdiction. Some professional experience, including internships, involved in legal processes and thinking is very helpful. And many international organizations, although not the AIIB presently, have entry level or early career legal positions.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal. A writer & digital publisher to international businesses and organizations, he's the author of: A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets (Ark Group 2014).

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