International arbitration is governed by both the parties’ private agreement but also by a number of international arbitration conventions that apply independently of the parties’ agreements.
Those conventions and treaties’ main goal is to promote international arbitration and help to enforce arbitration awards, such as the 1923 Geneva Protocol and the 1927 Geneva Convention. These two international instruments were key in the development and promotion of international arbitration as they established new, pro-arbitration standards.
These conventions were followed by the New York Convention, or the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, in 1958. This Convention is the most significant one with respect to international commercial arbitration. Its main focus is as stated in the title, i.e., the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards. It has been signed and ratified by the clear majority of countries in the world.
Another important convention is the 1961 European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration which is the most important regional instrument. This convention was mainly drafted for arbitration between parties from European States. It was signed on 21 April 1961 and came into force in 1964. Today, 31 States have signed and ratified the convention. It concerns arbitration agreements, the arbitral procedure and arbitral awards.
In addition, the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration or the “Panama Convention” was negotiated in 1975 between the United States and most South American countries. This convention is similar to the New York Convention, as it provides for instance the presumption of enforceability of arbitration agreements and awards.
Moreover, with respect to investment arbitration, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) Convention or “Washington Convention” was signed in 1965 and ratified by almost 150 countries. This Convention focuses on investment disputes, defined as disputes arising out of an investment between the foreign investor and the host state. It provides for a procedure before an arbitral tribunal as well as a conciliation mechanism.
Finally, international arbitration is governed by bilateral and multilateral treaties, including bilateral investment treaties or investment protection agreements, providing protections for investments against for instance expropriation, and bilateral friendship, commerce and navigation treaties, which deal only incidentally with international arbitration.