Eduardo Silva Romero talks of advancing diversity, scope of ICC Institute as new Chair

  • 4 March 2021
ICC Arbitration and ADR

Eduardo Silva Romero, Co-Chair of Dechert’s International Arbitration Global Practice, was elected as Chair of the ICC Institute of World Business Law last year. Having stepped into his role officially in January, he has an ambitious agenda for the global think-tank. We sat down with Mr Silva Romero to learn about his plans to prioritise diversity and expand the focus of the Institute to ensure it remains a driver of world business law excellence.

Eduardo Silva Romero, Chair of the ICC Institute of World Business Law; Co-Chair of Dechert’s International Arbitration Global Practice

Prioritising diversity and inclusion

ICC: What importance does diversity hold in a major think-tank like the ICC Institute? How to do you aim to make the Institute more diverse and inclusive now as Chair?

Mr Silva Romero: I think diversity is essential on all fronts, in all institutions, corporations, organisations, etc. It is also important to the International Chamber of Commerce, as cultivating diversity is a vehicle for more widespread peace and prosperity. The ICC Institute needs to move towards that goal with a lot of determination. This is obviously essential because if the scope of our think-tank is international business law, then it is critical that we have views coming from all regions, origins, religions, genders, etc.

As it is one of our priorities, we have determined three areas where we feel we can boost our diversity efforts. The first regards the Council of the ICC Institute, which comprises over 40 eminent lawyers. We intend to appoint more women; professionals from Africa, Asia, and Latin America; and more practitioners from corporations and states. Diversity should not only be viewed in the traditional sense, (i.e., gender, origin, etc.) within the Institute, it is vital that we have representation from practitioners in law firms, as well as in corporations and states to ensure that a range of perspectives is represented.

The second area is to diversify our membership base, which already is made up of more than 180 members representing every region of the world. All Council members have been asked to send invitations to potential Institute members. Applying to become an ICC Institute member is simple. Interested parties can submit their CVs, together with a letter of interest, and a dedicated committee will review each profile. Members can then contribute to the work of the Institute; apply to speak at events; propose subjects for reflection; and other added benefits.

Aside from that, we will count on our two regional chapters, the Ibero-American chapter and the recently created Australasian chapter, in the hope of getting more members for the ICC Institute from those regions. We also have ambitions to expand our footprint in Africa.

Finally, we aim to bring greater diversity to our activities. We will continue to invite people from all horizons to participate in our events, as speakers and trainers, to ensure that our diversity ethos is fulfilled. In the last few years, the world has, unfortunately, to some extent, been divided. While protectionism and nationalism have grown globally in recent years, my hope is to do what ICC has always done, that is to create an international forum. A forum, not where everyone thinks the same, but a place where all views can be expressed and hopefully some consensus can be reached on essential topics to further develop international business law.

Expanding focus beyond arbitration

ICC: Traditionally, the ICC Institute has focused mainly on international arbitration for its discussions, events, and trainings. How and why do you plan on widening this scope, and what new topics would you like to see covered during your term?

Mr Silva Romero: While the ICC Institute’s focus has, until now, been mostly on arbitration, it is not an arbitration think-tank but one of world business law. This means the scope of the Institute is obviously broader. Traditionally, the Institute has focused on international arbitration because of its close relationship with the ICC International Court of Arbitration. However, just as ICC is a leading administrator of arbitration globally, the Institute can also provide insight into emerging issues and disruptions when it comes to business law. Moving forward, we will continue to operate in close coordination with the ICC Court. However, we plan to direct our attention to other subjects of great importance within the global business arena, including compliance, intellectual property, international contracts, mergers and acquisitions, and other popular fields.

This brings us back to the first question on diversity. Diversity in speciality is also key because, traditionally, members of the ICC Institute and its Council have arbitration backgrounds. We will need to diversify on that front and have members that are experts in fields other than arbitration as well.

That said, arbitration itself has become very complex in the sense that it is constantly interacting with other fields. You may find arbitrations where the main topic is an antitrust issue and antitrust is a big field of international business law. Very fashionable today is the interaction between arbitration and compliance, for example. Compliance has become such a big monster in the legal field and is of such great importance for large corporations that arbitration must take that field into account. More generally, the ICC Institute must understand compliance, an area I believe is not properly understood. I think people tend to think of a department of justice investigating people, and things of that nature, but compliance is much broader. I feel that the ICC Institute can contribute to and rationalise this field, making it more approachable through the creation of clearer concepts within the field itself.

Going back to our academic roots

ICC: What is the importance of reigniting a debate regarding the historical and theoretical topics of world business law?

Mr Silva Romero: There are two points to this question. I am under the impression, and I think the members of the Institute would agree, that we have become a very pragmatic body. We offer very good trainings on practical topics and issues arising from a pragmatic perspective within international arbitration or elsewhere. However, we have lost, to some extent, the spirit that the Institute had at its very beginning, which was to discuss concepts and ideas, and hopefully new concepts and ideas, to advance international business law and its practices. Once again, compliance is an example of a field to which we can contribute from a theoretical approach. More specifically, there are many new ideas in law that deserve to be discussed in a more academic way. This does not mean that the ICC Institute will become a theoretical body. However, let’s say that ten percent of activities will be theoretical, which will be attractive to academics. At the very beginning, the Institute was more a body of academics rather than practitioners, so we need to recover part of that spirit.

The second point of the question has to do with history. I have always felt that because we live in a world that is very pragmatic and very much in the present, as we constantly run to preform and gain benefits, we forget the significance of where we started. When you observe the importance of ICC, with its creation of international business tools, from dispute resolution services and model contracts to the Incoterms® Rules, this history is of great value to the Institute. We need to take a step back and think of how the history of ICC can spur new ideas and dimensions.

Regarding the theoretical side, we will start by organising jurisprudential debates. Jurisprudence here is understood in the English sense of ‘legal theory’. We plan to be attentive to publications from leading experts who are pioneering in their fields and are proposing new innovations. We would like to offer those authors the chance to debate with professionals that do not share the same view in one-hour events with some moderation and questions. I believe that our members will find this activity of value and hopefully a great learning opportunity. We are thinking of organising perhaps one or two per year to maximise the value from each.

Learn more about the Institute of World Business Law, ICC’s global think-tank providing research, training and information to the legal profession concerned with the development of international business law.