Diversity in international arbitration tribunals remains a hot topic among practitioners. Desired goals have been set on multiple occasions, especially with respect to gender diversity, and on 10 January 2017, Berwin Leighton Paisner released an annual arbitration survey (“Diversity in International Arbitration: Are We Getting There?”) to evaluate where things stand. The survey is provided below.
The global survey gathers statistics from around the world and reveals that diversity in arbitral tribunals is far from being achieved, whether it concerns gender, race, nationality or even age.
According to the survey, in 289 closed ICSID arbitrations from January 1972 to May 2015, “in nearly half of cases (45%), the tribunals were composed of all Anglo-European arbitrators.” ICC data on arbitral appointments also showed that, to November 2016, only 20% of arbitrators appointed had been women.
The survey shows that among the most important attributes of arbitrators diversity receives little consideration. Only 12%, for instance, regard gender as an important factor.
When the time comes to choose an arbitrator the expertise of the arbitrator was found to be the most important criteria. The survey reports that “93% of respondents felt that a potential candidate’s expertise was either ‘very important’ or ‘important’” (page 9 of the Survey). Along with the arbitrator’s expertise, efficiency was also considered to be of prime importance.
In order to increase diversity, all main actors in international arbitration proceedings can contribute. Each actor plays a role in the promotion of diversity, although to a different degree according to respondents. Statistics show that both arbitral institutions and counsel for parties, both of which can influence the selection of arbitrators, play an important role in achieving greater diversity.
Finally, the survey stands as a reminder of how important diversity is viewed in international arbitration. The inclusion of individuals of varied racial, ethnic, gender and social backgrounds is perceived to have value and to contribute to a fair procedure and influences the quality of arbitral awards.
Diversity is also relevant to widen the pool of arbitrators for greater choice and fewer conflicts of interest.