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ICCA 2024: Exploring international arbitration as a human endeavour

16 May 2024
– 4 Minute Read



  • ICCA 2024 was titled ‘International Arbitration: A Human Endeavour’ and was attended by over 1 400 participants from across the global arbitration community.
  • The conference agenda included several interesting, thought-provoking and stimulating panel discussions.
  • Jonathan Barnes and Clement Mkiva have shared their highlights.

From 5 to 8 May 2024, two of our international arbitration experts, Jonathan Barnes and Clement Mkiva, attended the 2024 International Council for Commercial Arbitration Conference (ICCA 2024) in Hong Kong.

ICCA 2024 was titled ‘International Arbitration: A Human Endeavour’ and was attended by the largest delegation seen by ICCA to date – over 1 400 participants from across the global arbitration community were present.

The conference agenda included several interesting, thought-provoking and stimulating panel discussions. The topics were diverse and drew on knowledge and learnings from various jurisdictions and a range of experts and service providers operating in the international arbitration arena. Highlights are as follows below.

A human endeavour: Throughout the conference, the theme of human involvement in international arbitration was a prominent point. In his keynote speech, Professor Bryant G. Garth reflected on the human evolution of international arbitration and the contribution that human beings and individuals lend to the legitimacy of the field. This point was expanded upon Professor Chin Leng Lim who commented on the interplay between political power and arbitration and highlighted the importance of critically assessing arbitration awards as a means of seeking improvements in the arbitral process to avoid disillusionment or disappointment.

Trust: When it comes to the role of the arbitrator in the arbitral process, trust is key. It was noted that tribunals ought to demonstrate trustworthiness, fairness and cultural sensitivity from the first meeting with the parties, as a key cornerstone to building trust in international arbitration. The importance of fairness as the ‘hallmark of everything’ arbitrators do was also highlighted.

Biases in arbitral decision-making: it was noted that the selection of arbitrators can be key to the effective resolution of disputes from different jurisdictions. Importantly, arbitrators often act as cultural intermediaries and so the selection of arbitrators from diverse backgrounds in multinational disputes may assist in mitigating biases during deliberations.

Unified interpretation: Revisiting the New York Convention, the human aspects of enforcement and upholding the Convention were considered, and the generally unified interpretation of the Convention over time was lauded as a great success.

Language and semantics: In the discussion on the importance of language and semantics, a presentation of empirical research revealed how various aspects of identity (including nationality, cultural background and education) can have an impact on the outcome of a tribunal’s perception of an arbitration practitioner and, ultimately, the outcome of the arbitral proceedings. In particular, the notion that English, as a common language, assists in levelling the playing field was debated and criticised as being a fallacy.

AI in international arbitration: Rounding off the discussions, the ‘hot’ topic of AI in international arbitration was discussed and unpacked. Two key points were made: (1) AI is here to stay! (2) Those who are not capable of successfully integrating AI and new technology into their practices, may start to lag behind in the market and in a field that is fast developing and evolving. Examples where AI has already been used successfully in international arbitration include scenarios where third-party funders utilise AI to make better investment decisions given the results on probable arbitration outcomes; and improvements in efficiency and consistency in cases. However, it was noted that AI cannot replace human reasoning and the balancing of complex nuances requiring human judgment.

ICCA 2024 presented us with an excellent opportunity to network, renew existing connections and establish meaningful new connections with key role players and other service providers in the global international arbitration community. ICCA 2024 was a great success and allowed us to broaden our international network further. We look forward to utilising our learnings and strong connections to continue to assist our clients with their complex and high-value international arbitration disputes.