The inaugural South Pacific International Arbitration Conference was held on 12-13 February 2018 in Fiji. It was hosted by the Government of Fiji, and organized with the participation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific. The conference aimed at the promotion of cross-border trade and foreign direct investment in the South Pacific region, through international arbitration reform.

The opening address was given by Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Hon. Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Public Enterprises, Civil Service, Communications, Education, Heritage and the Arts of Fiji.  Mr. Christopher Stephens, General Counsel, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Mr. João Ribeiro-Bidaoui Head, UNCITRAL Regional Center for Asia and the Pacific, also took the floor during the opening session, before the keynote address by Gary Born, Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and President of the SIAC Court. Several introductory, practical and specialized sessions were held on aspects such as the drafting of arbitration clauses, the 1958 New York Convention and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), carreers in arbitration, the enforcement of arbitral awards, etc. The conference included a mock international arbitration designed to walk participants through the process of a typical international arbitration.

A panel was devoted to the arbitration of climate finance disputes, a topic of increasing concern to the South Pacific island states. Ms. Judith Levine, Senior Legal Counsel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) provided an introduction to how disputes may arise in connection with climate change and the UN legal framework, recalling examples of PCA interstate, investor-state and contract-based cases in recent years. She then focused on the types of disputes that could lend themselves to arbitration in the climate finance context, and pointed to existing agreements to arbitrate under the 2012 PCA Rules in contribution, accreditation and project agreements connected with the Green Climate Fund. She also reflected on the ways in which arbitration has been able to adapt to suit climate-change related disputes with regard to accessibility, appreciation of technical evidence, and flexibility in dispute resolution mechanisms.

It may be noted in that regards that the PCA had recently participated in the Fiji-led UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn last November. (COP23). Fiji is the only island state in the South Pacific region that is a contracting party to the PCA’s founding conventions. Fiji recently signed the New York Convention and passed new legislation for international arbitration, based on the UNCITRAL Model Law: the Fiji International Arbitration Act 2017.

Source: International Law Gazette / PCA / ADB / UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific.

 

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