This year’s ITA-ASIL conference featured a timely and important conversation with Secretary of UNCITRAL, Ms. Anna Joubin-Bret, Secretary-General of ICSID, Ms. Meg Kinnear, and Secretary-General of the ICC, Mr. Alexander G. Fessas, about the reforms within their respective institutions. The crux of this panel was to discuss what major reform initiatives would be implemented and, in general, why those changes are taking place. Throughout the discussion, the consensus, as Mr. Fessas put it, was that “time requires reform.” In essence, this panel demonstrated the effectiveness of intra-institutional cooperation and collaboration and the importance of moving forward with the reforms.
Ms. Joubin-Bret kicked off the discussion by referring to the metaphor of remodeling a home to describe UNCITRAL’s reform efforts and the considerations put forth by Working Group III, with a key point being the installation of an appellate mechanism to the ISDS system, establishing a “second-level” of substantive review of arbitral tribunals’ decisions. Though it is uncertain whether this mechanism will involve a second-instance court or a standing appellate court, Ms. Joubin-Bret noted that UNCITRAL has been devising the essential features of this long-discussed topic collaborating with ICSID and more than 450 individuals involved in its Working Group III.
ICSID, as Ms. Kinnear expressed, is “a procedural mechanism through which dispute settlement can get accomplished,” so it has focused its reform efforts on its protocols, with less emphasis on substantive reforms. Indeed, though the specific language may differ on paper, the proposals made to the ICSID Rules should be similar in practice to the recently amended ICC Rules. Both institutions strive to provide more transparency by requiring the disclosure of third-party funding to avoid conflicts of interest. Further, both the ICC and ICSID are materializing an expedited arbitration protocol, whereby, as Mr. Fessas noted, small and medium-sized businesses could “avail themselves of the benefits of international arbitration.” The goal is to provide a system through which parties can resolve their disputes expeditiously.
Overall, the panel discussion covered the important points of what the future of international arbitration would look like within these institutions. The reforms discussed attempt to facilitate the dispute resolution mechanisms in the near future and should positively impact to the users of UNCITRAL, ICSID, and the ICC arbitration.