Professor Thomas W. Wälde (1949-2008)

OGEL 3 (2008),
in Editorial

Professor Thomas W. Wälde, who has died aged 59, was a leading scholar and practitioner in the field of international energy and resources law. Though based in a small village outside St Andrews for the last 15 years, his reach and influence has been global. As he explained in a recording made in 2007, his aim in life was to understand "what lay underneath the emperor's clothes" and to reveal and explain this truth, however unpalatable it might be to listeners. He had no liking for political correctness nor for desires to please. The world of energy and mineral resources is replete with vested interests and empty rhetoric, with shady deals and plain corruption, and Thomas did not shirk from revealing such unpalatable truths. But at the same time, his objective was to support coherent and just policy making for the good of all, and to support those who wished to deepen their understanding of these challenging issues.

Professor Wälde excelled in developing and deepening international understanding of critical legal and policy issues relating to energy and natural resources. He achieved this in his roles as an adviser to governments and companies, as a mediator and arbitrator, as an academic researcher into the critical issues of the day, as an educator, and through his leadership of the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee.

Born in 1949, he grew up in Heidelberg and went to school at the Kurfuerst-Friedrich-Gymnasium. He was from very much South-West German families. His great uncle, Reinhold Maier, was the first Ministerpraesident of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Another uncle, Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, was a well known German professor of nuclear physics and President of the German National Science Foundation. Wälde studied law, in the traditional German way, at the Universities of Heidelberg, Lausanne-Geneva, Berlin and Frankfurt. He also gained an LLM at Harvard Law School.

In 1980 he joined the UN and later became United Nations Interregional Adviser on international investment policy and petroleum/mineral legislation. He advised over 60 governments on legislative reform and contract negotiations with international investors. He was also, from 1981 to 1983, UN investigator on occupation practices in Palestinian territories and was responsible for the Secretary General's reports on "Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources" and on the Permanent Sovereignty in Occupied Palestinian Territories. He initiated the UN project for environmental guidelines in mining and was chair of the drafting group that produced the first version of the "Berlin Guidelines" in 1990.

In 1991 he joined the University of Dundee as Director of the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP). He was later awarded by the European Commission a Jean-Monnet Chair in European Economic and Energy Law. Under his leadership the Centre underwent a period of spectacular growth and is now a major international institution in its field for graduate studies and research. To a great extent he developed this Centre in his own image, international and inter-disciplinary, combining academic excellence and professional relevance. Many of its alumni hold leading positions in governments and major institutions influencing policy and practice at the highest level throughout the world.

After stepping down from the post of Director in 2001, he maintained his role as a teacher and expanded his activities in the field of dispute resolution and arbitration, where he quickly enhanced his already formidable reputation.

Whilst at the University of Dundee, Thomas used and extended his global networks to develop an extraordinary virtual campus of leading practitioners and scholars around the world, who became part of the Dundee intellectual family, in many cases without ever having set foot in Scotland. In recent years OGEL became an important instrument in these networks. After a meeting in 2002 with the MARIS team, he started to work with them on OGEL and published the first issue in 2003. After an OGEL special issue on "Dispute Management in the Oil, Gas and Energy Industries", Thomas wanted to have an opportunity to focus on international arbitration in general as well and so he came with the idea for TDM following the same concept as OGEL. The first issue of TDM came in February 2004. Both publications have since gained popularity with international (energy) companies, governmental organisations, law firms, international agencies, academic and think-tank institutions.

For those who knew him personally, he was an inspirational mentor and leader who always had time to guide and advise. He will be sorely missed by hundreds of professional colleagues around the world.

Many thanks to Professor Philip Andrews-Speed, Chair of Energy Policy and Director of the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy, University of Dundee, for preparing this text.

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Suggested Citation

"Professor Thomas W. Wälde (1949-2008)"
OGEL 3 (2008),