Resounding success for virtual 18th ICC Miami Conference on International Arbitration

  • 19 November 2020

The first-ever digital 18th ICC Miami Conference on International Arbitration concluded on Friday, following a four-day event that united close to 400 practising lawyers, arbitrators, mediators, corporate counsel and academics from 40 countries.

The long-standing event, which this year was held online due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, has grown significantly since it launched 18 years ago and is an unmissable event in the international arbitration calendar, not only in Latin America, but in the US and Europe.

Featuring in-depth sessions on progressing diversity in extraordinary times to re-shaping dispute resolution in a new era, the four-day conference kicked off with a two-day specialised training on data protection and cybersecurity in virtual proceedings. Held by the ICC Institute of World Business Law, participants representing 20 countries attended the sessions which provided hands-on expertise on digital international arbitration.

On the third day, ICC YAF, a forum for young arbitration practitioners, held its regional event, cross-examining ICC Institute Chair Yves Derains on his professional career and the experiences that led him to become a world-renowned arbitrator. In addition, speakers got the chance to test their knowledge on the hot issues in arbitration today during a game of Arbitration Roulette.

One of the highlights of the week was a diversity session, co-organised with Arbitral Women, Arbitration Pledge and Women Way in Arbitration, which explored strategies that support and prioritise diversity and inclusion efforts.

The main event, kicked off with Alexander G. Fessas, Secretary General of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and Ana Serra e Moura, ICC Court Deputy Secretary General, interviewing ICC Court President Alexis Mourre, as they looked into the major developments at the ICC Court over the last six years, predictions about the future of international arbitration and the lessons learned throughout his time as Court President.

“As a President of the Court, it is important to learn to be humble. You need to learn how to listen, and it’s important to be generous enough to be able to interact with people. On all these fronts, I hope I learned something and became better,” Mr Mourre said.

The first session was a discussion on real-life situations seen in ICC Arbitrations during the pandemic. Arbitration experts competed in an interactive game-show style panel to propose solutions to complicated situations that can arise in administering arbitrations in a Covid-19 world. Expert opinions and perspectives were debated by a panel comprising leading arbitration practitioners.

“Today’s big question is if a court can impose a virtual hearing when one of the parties is against. The ICC Regulation 2021 has taken a radical decision including a new article, which establishes that the arbitral tribunal can decide if the hearings can be carried virtually or in-person unless agreed otherwise,” said Juan Fernandez-Armesto, Partner of law firm Armesto & Asociados.

The final panel of speakers addressed the key actions that General Counsel has devised in response to Covid-19 and how such strategies may affect the market for dispute resolution services. When discussing how dispute resolution services can support business resilience during the pandemic,

Suzana Blades, Associate General Counsel at ConocoPhillips, said: “An economic business analysis upfront before you submit an arbitration is necessary. You need to think about if it is worth it and how much money I am going to spend to try monetise the award”.

The conference concluded with a closing keynote speech by Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo, Executive Vice President and Director of Corporate Affairs at PepsiCo, who identified economic revolution and historical shift of the global geopolitical power as the two main transformative effects of the pandemic.

“The world has huge historic challenges, the multilateral system as a whole is under pressure. We need to find a way forward to facilitate business and job creation in all levels.

“I think the ICC and specialized arbitration can be the way forward,” he said.