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On the first morning of its centenary conference in London (3 July 2015), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) launched its CIArb Centenary London Conference Principles (the Principles), which are described as those characteristics necessary for an effective, efficient and safe seat for the conduct of international commercial arbitration. Described as a ‘draft’ in an opening address to the conference, it was envisaged that the Principles would be declared and approved at the conference.
The Principles, ten in total, are described by the CIArb as the characteristics of an effective, efficient and safe seat for the conduct of international arbitration. During his conference introduction, Professor Doug Jones commented that the draft Principles offer a 'touchstone' against which established seats of international arbitration can measure their performance and that the Principles also provide guidance for developing seats.
The CIArb hopes that the Principles will prompt a close study of what it is that makes arbitration really work. It is envisaged that as examination of the Principles proceeds, they will be both refined and deepened, the desired outcome being that a country, arbitral institution, professional body or legal sector will be able to have regard to the Principles in deciding how they respond to the challenge of providing effective and safe arbitration facilities for the 21st century and beyond.
Lord Neuberger, President of the UK Supreme Court, endorsed the Principles during his keynote speech to the conference, describing them (inter alia) as 'impressive', 'clearly set out' and not too prescriptive, although he did provide constructive comments on the first four Principles. Sundaresh Menon, Chief Justice of Singapore, similarly identified that some of the details needed to be 'fleshed out' in his Patron's address, but stated that the Principles were a 'vital step' towards arriving at a common structural foundation across a number of seats of international commercial arbitration.
In summary, the Principles for an efficient and effective seat are:
A clear, effective and modern arbitration law that recognises and respects the parties' choice to arbitrate by providing a framework for facilitating fair and just resolution of disputes through the arbitration process
An independent judiciary experienced in international commercial arbitration and respectful of party autonomy
A legal profession experienced in international commercial arbitration and international dispute resolution, offering choice to those seeking representation in arbitration and before the national courts
A commitment to education of all key players and to the development of learning in the field
A clear right for parties to be represented in arbitration by party representatives of their choice whether from inside or outside the seat
Easy accessibility, adequate safety and protection for parties, their documentation and information
Functional facilities for the provision of all services required to run an effective and efficient arbitration
Professional and other norms embracing a diversity of legal and cultural traditions and the developing norms of international ethical principles governing the behaviour of arbitrators and party representatives
Adherence to international treaties and agreements on the ready recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration agreements, orders and awards made at the seat of the arbitration in other countries
A clear right to arbitrator immunity from civil liability for matters done or omitted to be done in good faith in capacity as arbitrator
The Principles represent a useful attempt at identifying, at a general level, what are the key features of a good, or 'safe', seat of arbitration. As the Principles are not intended to be exhaustive or too prescriptive, and were described as a draft, it would be churlish to pick fault with their current form. For lawyers, details are important, but so too are initiatives aimed at encouraging dialogue around key issues in international commercial arbitration, particularly those which also provide guidance for less developed seats of arbitration. The CIArb Principles also encourage reflection on what it is that makes arbitration really work, which is welcomed.
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