What is International Arbitration

Corporate Practice - SS LAW CODES

International arbitration emerges as a preferred method for resolving such disputes, offering parties a flexible and neutral forum to settle their differences outside the confines of national courts. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of international arbitration, exploring its types, advantages, and distinctions from other methods of dispute resolution.

International Arbitration:

International arbitration refers to the process of resolving disputes between parties from different countries through arbitration. Unlike litigation, which involves resolving disputes in national courts, international arbitration offers parties a more flexible and confidential alternative for resolving their conflicts. The parties agree to submit their dispute to one or more arbitrators, who render a binding decision known as an arbitral award.

Types of International Arbitration:

Ad Hoc Arbitration:

Ad hoc arbitration refers to arbitration proceedings that are conducted without the involvement of any specific arbitral institution. In ad hoc arbitration, the parties themselves manage the arbitration process, including selecting arbitrators, determining procedural rules, and administering the proceedings. Ad hoc arbitration offers parties greater flexibility and autonomy in shaping the arbitration process according to their specific needs and preferences.

Advantages of Ad Hoc Arbitration:

  • Flexibility: Parties have the freedom to design their own arbitration process, including selecting arbitrators with relevant expertise and establishing procedural rules tailored to the dispute.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Ad hoc arbitration may be more cost-effective than institutional arbitration since parties can avoid administrative fees charged by arbitral institutions.
  • Confidentiality: Ad hoc arbitration proceedings are often confidential, allowing parties to maintain the privacy of their dispute.

Challenges of Ad Hoc Arbitration:

  • Procedural Complexity: Ad hoc arbitration requires parties to manage the arbitration process themselves, which can be challenging and time-consuming, particularly in complex disputes.
  • Lack of Institutional Support: Without the assistance of an arbitral institution, parties may face difficulties in appointing arbitrators, administering proceedings, and enforcing awards.

Institutional Arbitration:

Institutional arbitration involves arbitration proceedings administered by established arbitral institutions, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), or the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). These institutions provide administrative support, procedural rules, and facilities for conducting arbitrations, streamlining the arbitration process and ensuring procedural fairness and efficiency.

Advantages of Institutional Arbitration:

  • Administrative Support: Arbitral institutions offer administrative support, including case management services, appointment of arbitrators, and logistical assistance, reducing the burden on parties.
  • Established Procedures: Institutional arbitration follows established procedural rules and practices, providing parties with clarity and predictability in the arbitration process.
  • Enforcement of Awards: Institutional arbitration awards are generally enforceable under the rules of the arbitral institution, providing parties with a reliable mechanism for enforcing their rights internationally.

Challenges of Institutional Arbitration:

  • Higher Costs: Institutional arbitration may be more expensive than ad hoc arbitration due to administrative fees charged by arbitral institutions.
  • Reduced Flexibility: Parties may have less flexibility in shaping the arbitration process since procedural rules are established by the arbitral institution.

Investment Arbitration:

Investment arbitration, also known as investor-state arbitration, involves disputes between foreign investors and host states arising from investment agreements or treaties. These disputes typically concern issues such as expropriation, breach of contract, or violations of treaty protections. Investment arbitration proceedings are often conducted under the auspices of institutions such as the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) or ad hoc under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.

Advantages of Investment Arbitration:

  • Protection of Investor Rights: Investment arbitration provides foreign investors with a mechanism to seek redress for violations of their rights under investment treaties or agreements.
  • Neutrality and Impartiality: Investment arbitration offers a neutral and impartial forum for resolving disputes between investors and host states, mitigating concerns about bias or undue influence.
  • Enforceability of Awards: Investment arbitration awards are generally enforceable under the New York Convention and other international treaties, providing parties with a reliable means of enforcing their rights against sovereign states.

Challenges of Investment Arbitration:

  • Sovereign Immunity: Host states may assert sovereign immunity as a defense in investment arbitration proceedings, limiting the enforceability of arbitral awards against them.
  • Public Policy Concerns: Investment arbitration raises complex public policy issues concerning the balance between investor rights and state sovereignty, leading to debates over the legitimacy and transparency of the arbitration process.
  • Lengthy Proceedings: Investment arbitration proceedings can be lengthy and costly, particularly in complex disputes involving significant amounts of evidence and legal arguments.

Difference Between Arbitration and Other Methods of Dispute Resolution:

While arbitration shares some similarities with other methods of dispute resolution, such as litigation and mediation, it also offers distinct advantages and characteristics:

  1. Arbitration vs. Litigation: Unlike litigation, which involves resolving disputes in national courts, arbitration offers parties greater flexibility, confidentiality, and neutrality in resolving their conflicts. Arbitration allows parties to choose their arbitrators, tailor procedural rules to their specific needs, and maintain confidentiality throughout the proceedings. Additionally, arbitration awards are generally enforceable internationally under the New York Convention, providing parties with a reliable mechanism for enforcing their rights across borders.
  2. Arbitration vs. Mediation: While both arbitration and mediation are forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), they differ in their approach and outcomes. In arbitration, the arbitrator(s) render a binding decision (arbitral award) based on the evidence and arguments presented by the parties. In contrast, mediation involves a neutral mediator facilitating negotiations between the parties to reach a mutually acceptable settlement. While arbitration provides a definitive resolution to the dispute, mediation focuses on fostering cooperation and consensus-building between the parties.


International arbitration offers parties a flexible, efficient, and impartial mechanism for resolving cross-border disputes. By understanding the different types of international arbitration and its distinctions from other methods of dispute resolution, parties can make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of international commerce with confidence.

Scroll to Top