On 18 November 2018, the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution (BCDR-AAA) and the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC) organized a joint conference on current issues in investment arbitration.
Held at the ART Rotana Hotel and Resort on Amwaj Islands, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain, the conference attracted more than 150 high-level government representatives, policymakers, international dispute resolution practitioners, and leading academics. Enlightening discussions took place on key questions facing the world of investment arbitration, once again illustrating BCDR-AAA's pivotal role as a regional and international platform for dialogue on important dispute resolution issues.
The conference comprised four panel discussions by internationally renowned dispute resolution practitioners and academics from North America, Latin America, Europe, and the MENA region. Each panel addressed a central topic of investment arbitration today:
Should investment disputes be submitted to international arbitration or to a permanent investment court?
Procedural efficiency in investment arbitration, with emphasis on expedited procedures, emergency measures and summary disposition of claims.
How to strike a balance between the protection of investments and the host country's right to regulate.
To what extent are conciliation and mediation efficient in the settlement of investor-state disputes?
Introducing the conference, Shaikha Haya bint Rashed Al Khalifa, Chair of BCDR-AAA's Board of Trustees, welcomed all the participants and praised the constructive cooperation between BCDR-AAA and SCC. She hoped that the conference would be only the first of many such events between the two institutions. Shaikha Haya said that the conference was particularly opportune given the present preoccupation of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III with the reform of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Bahrain was participating in the Working Group's sessions, the Bahraini delegation being headed by BCDR-AAA's Chief Executive Officer, Nassib G. Ziadé. Shaikha Haya finally thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs of Bahrain for their patronage of the conference, which was testimony to Bahrain's support for BCDR-AAA's high-profile activities and its role in promoting the rule of law in the region.
Shaikha Rana Isa Al Khalifa, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, then addressed the conference on behalf of H.E. the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered it important to be present at the conference to support BCDR-AAA's efforts to bring together leaders in the field to address current concerns. She recalled the action undertaken by Bahrain in developing a regulatory framework to encourage investments, including establishing rules for investment dispute resolution, and creating and maintaining a legal framework to protect the rights of each party to a dispute and to facilitate the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.
The conference was then addressed by Annette Magnusson, Secretary-General of the Arbitration Institute of SCC in Sweden. Ms. Magnusson said that the panel discussions would address the ultimate goal of international dispute resolution mechanisms, namely, to resolve disputes fairly and efficiently, at as little time and expense as possible, allowing parties to invest the greater part of their resources in their core activities and responsibilities, such as governance, international trade, economic development, peace, and prosperity. She concluded that international arbitration, and dispute resolution mechanisms in general, are among the pillars of international trade, and that reinforcing dispute resolution mechanisms is, therefore, indispensable for the preservation of international trade.
Ms. Magnusson's remarks were followed by a statement from BCDR-AAA's Chief Executive Officer, Nassib G. Ziadé. He first reaffirmed BCDR-AAA's interest in investment arbitration, this being the third event BCDR-AAA had organized on the subject. In December 2015, in collaboration with the Investment Treaty Forum of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, it had organized a four-day course and a one-day conference entitled "International Investment Arbitration in the MENA Region." Then, in November 2017, it joined forces with UNCITRAL and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in organizing the "Fourth International Conference for a Euro-Mediterranean Community of International Arbitration." Prof. Ziadé added that BCDR-AAA intends to draw up its own investment arbitration rules in 2019 as part of its commitment to offering a complete, efficient, cost-effective, and professional dispute resolution service covering both commercial and investment disputes.
Prof. Ziadé drew attention to the topicality of the subjects to be discussed during the conference and the work BCDR-AAA had already undertaken in relation to some of them. For instance, on the question of whether investment disputes should be submitted to international arbitration or to a permanent investment court, BCDR-AAA was preparing Bahrain's official submissions to UNICTRAL Working Group III ahead of its thirty-seventh session in New York in April 2019. On the question of procedural efficiency in investment arbitration, BCDR-AAA had included in its 2017 Arbitration Rules provisions allowing for the appointment of emergency arbitrators to order urgent measures, for the resolution of disputes through expedited procedures, and for the summary disposition of claims. And on conciliation and mediation, BCDR-AAA was in the process of updating its mediation rules to reflect industry best practice, with revised rules due to be issued in 2019.
In closing, Prof. Ziadé expressed BCDR-AAA's gratitude to the conference's official sponsors Haya Rashed Al Khalifa Attorneys at Law & Legal Consultants and Hassan Radhi & Associates.
A lively first panel discussion ensued, debating whether investment disputes should be submitted to international arbitration or to a permanent investment court. This debate was moderated by Nabil Elaraby, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Cairo Regional Center for International Commercial Arbitration, and former Judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The speakers were Marc Bungenberg, Chair of Public Law, Public International Law and European Law at Saarland University, Saarbrücken; Markus Burgstaller, Partner at Hogan Lovells, London; Nikos Lavranos, Secretary-General of the European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration, Brussels; and Nassib G. Ziadé. A detailed report on the first panel's discussions can be found here. The PowerPoint presentation of Prof. Ziadé is available here.
The second panel discussed procedural efficiency in investment arbitration. The discussions were moderated by Adrian Winstanley, OBE, former Director-General of the London Court of International Arbitration, and independent arbitrator. The speakers were Karim Hafez, Senior Partner at Hafez, Cairo, and independent arbitrator; Ginta Ahrel, Partner at Lindahl, Stockholm; Anne K. Hoffmann, independent arbitrator, Dubai; and Johan Sidklev, Partner at Roschier, Stockholm. To see a detailed report on the second panel's discussions, click here. To access the PowerPoint presentations of Ms. Ahrel, Ms. Hoffmann and Mr. Sidklev, click on their names.
The third panel reflected on how to strike a balance between the protection of investments and the host country's right to regulate. The discussions were moderated by Antonio R. Parra, Consultant at the World Bank, Washington, DC. The speakers were Crina Baltag, Senior Lecturer in Law at Bedfordshire University, Luton; Mahmoud M. Elkhrashy, Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain; Francisco González de Cossío, Founding Partner of González de Cossío Abogados, SC, Mexico City; and Alexander Uff, Partner in the International Arbitration Practice of Shearman & Sterling, London. For a detailed report on the third panel's discussions, click here. The PowerPoint presentations of Dr. Baltag, Mr. Elkhrashy, Dr. González de Cossío and Mr. Uff are accessible by clicking on their names.
The conference's fourth and last panel was moderated by Annette Magnusson and considered to what extent conciliation and mediation were efficient ways of settling investor-state disputes. The speakers were Hannah Tümpel, Director of Communications and Engagements at United World Colleges, London; Laila El Shentenawi, Senior Associate, Al Tamimi & Co., Dubai; Mohamed Abdel Raouf, Partner, Abdel Raouf Law Firm, Cairo; and Eloïse Obadia, Investment Legal Consultant at the World Bank, Washington DC. To see a detailed report on the fourth panel's discussions, click here. The PowerPoint presentations of Ms. Tümpel and Ms. Obadia are available by clicking on their names.
The conference closed with remarks from Ms. Magnusson and Prof. Ziadé, followed by a screening of The Quiet Triumph - How Arbitration Changed the World, an inspiring SCC documentary describing the history and role of international arbitration in creating a peaceful international order and upholding the rule of law. More information and a trailer on the film can be found here.
Other pictures taken during the conference