In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, international arbitration and alternative dispute resolution institutions are looking to provide innovative solutions to current restrictions on international travel and physical attendance at hearings and proceedings.
The International Arbitration Centre Alliance (IACA) was formed on 12 May 2020 to provide a solution to the unique challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. Formed through a partnership of the International Dispute Resolution Centre of London; the Arbitration Place of Toronto and Ottawa, Canada; and Maxwell Chambers of Singapore, the IACA aims to combine the resources of each partner entity to provide “global hybrid hearings” and associated services. The IACA intends for global hybrid hearings to be an adaptive solution that can be used during the pandemic and in the future when countries begin to transition to a new post-pandemic landscape.
A global hybrid hearing will allow participants to conduct arbitration hearings and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceedings using a combination of physical and/or virtual attendance. This could include connecting via a remote virtual platform hosted by an IACA entity, attending at the premises of the closest IACA facility, or a combination of both. Accordingly, parties will be able to utilise the resources of the IACA institution that is geographically closest, thus reducing the need for international travel and expenditure, which is commonly required in “single site” proceedings.
The IACA states that it will combine the resources of each partner entity in order to provide the facilities and services that parties have become accustomed to throughout traditional arbitration or ADR proceedings. This will include real-time court reporting, simultaneous translation, and breakout rooms.
Further, in order to facilitate virtual proceedings, the IACA will provide participants with technical support before and during the hearing, which will include technical rehearsals, ongoing monitoring, and enhanced cybersecurity measures. In the event of investor-state arbitrations, the IACA can provide for hearings to be made globally accessible, so they are available to the public (where required).
By removing the need for international travel and attendance at specific locations, “hybrid” proceedings provide for a number of economic and environmental efficiencies. As businesses begin to consider the consequences of transitioning into the “new normal,” in the future we may see more parties expressing a preference for hybrid proceedings over single-site proceedings.