21 May 2015

Trends in international arbitration: The future Ibero-American Arbitration Centre

This article was written by Marlen Estevez Sanz (associate).

We are currently witnessing the establishment of the first Ibero-American arbitration institution: The Ibero-American Arbitration Centre ("CIAr") (Centro Iberoamericano de Arbitraje), which is expected to be fully operational this year.

A key event in CIAr’s foundation process occurred on 3 October 2012, with the signature of the Framework Convention in Brasilia, when its establishment was endorsed by some of the most important Ibero-American chambers of commerce and business organisations, as well as by the main Bar Associations of the region (including the General Ibero-American Secretariat ("SEGIB"), and the Ibero-American Conference of Ministers of Justice ("COMJIB")). 

CIAr has been designed as a specific private and independent international Ibero-American arbitration forum for the members of any Ibero-American countries, although not at the exclusion of other countries. It aims to flexibly and efficiently resolve disputes, especially commercial disputes, offering a less expensive alternative for  small and medium enterprises ("SMEs") and therefore advancing their access to arbitration. It is expected, however, that the focus of CIAr will be expanded in the future to cover investor-state disputes.

This new arbitration centre has been imbued by the common history, idiosyncrasy, legal culture and language shared in Ibero-America, as opposed to the predominance of common-law principles and procedures that prevail in other arbitral forums. The working languages will be Spanish and Portuguese and it is expected that it will have three headquarters: Costa Rica, Spain and Brazil. In this sense, CIAr aims to stand out as an alternative to the existing arbitral institutions, such as the International Chamber of Commerce or the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Furthermore, it is expected that its arbitral procedure will be designed to reduce the resources required for dispute resolution. To this end, an innovative summary procedure is also envisaged. For those disputes that have minor economic significance, the arbitral procedure could take place in a virtual mode that will significantly reduce costs and time. With these proposals to establish an online arbitration system, the CIAr will certainly appeal to SMEs, removing one of the major hurdles they face during arbitration.

All in all, CIAr aims to address a unique arbitration demand in the Ibero-American countries alongside their economic and social operators and their advocacy needs, with the support of both private and public actors. This promising initiative illustrates the ongoing expansion of international arbitration and represents a new step towards a close coordination amongst the Ibero-American countries, with the intention of developing a common arbitral culture and encouraging more disputes to be submitted to arbitration. In doing so, CIAr will play an important role in providing greater legal certainty to the region. 

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