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Freshfields Risk & Compliance

| 2 minutes read

Diversity in international arbitration initiative marks one-year anniversary

A year since the launch of the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge, the international arbitration community celebrates its successes to date and renews efforts to achieve the objective of full parity in international arbitration.

The Pledge, spearheaded by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s international arbitration partner Sylvia Noury, who co-chairs the Pledge Steering Committee, aims to address the under-representation of women on international arbitral tribunals. It calls on participants in the international arbitration system, including parties, counsel, arbitrators and arbitral institutions, to commit to improving the profile and representation of women in arbitration with the objective of ensuring that women are appointed as arbitrators on tribunals on an equal opportunity basis.

While there are many well-qualified female arbitrator candidates, they often lack visibility, with their male counterparts repeatedly selected from the same relatively small pool based on their prior experience sitting as arbitrators. This has led to concerns such as the lack of availability of arbitrators, delays in arbitral awards, potential conflicts of interest and unconscious bias in decision-making. The Pledge seeks to address these concerns by broadening the pool of arbitrators and paving the way for greater diversity in the international arbitration system.

Since its launch in London in May 2016, the Pledge has garnered the support of over 1,800 signatories worldwide, including individuals and over 350 organisations (arbitral institutions, law firms and corporates) in 93 countries, who have committed to taking concrete steps to achieve greater diversity in arbitration. The Pledge was recently awarded ‘Best Development’ in international arbitration in 2016 at the 7th Annual Global Arbitration Review Awards.

A key commitment under the Pledge is for gender statistics for arbitrator appointments to be made available, so that progress can be measured. Figures from arbitral institutions for 2016 suggest that the numbers of female arbitrator appointments are increasing, with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)’s International Court of Arbitration reporting that its proportion of female arbitrators had increased from 10 to 15% from 2015 to 2016, while the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) reported an increase from 16 to 20% in the same period.

Greater improvement is needed in the diversity of arbitrators nominated by the parties, acting on the advice of the law firms representing them in proceedings. The Pledge seeks to address this by calling on law firms to commit to providing short-lists of arbitrator candidates to their clients that include women – a move lauded by clients, many of whose in-house counsel are themselves women and have signed up to the Pledge. In order to assist counsel and parties to identify suitable female arbitrator candidates, a sub-committee of the Pledge Steering Committee comprising members of arbitral institutions oversees an arbitrator search function on the Pledge website.

At the one-year anniversary event held at Freshfields London offices on 15 May 2017, attendees from the international arbitration community were reminded by Pledge Steering Committee Co-Chair, Wendy Miles QC of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, that while progress has been made and the initiative continues to gain momentum around the globe, signing up to the Pledge was just the first step in taking concrete action to achieve equal representation – each of us has a part to play in advancing that goal.

To learn more and commit to taking action by signing the Pledge, see: Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge

See also: Key Trends in International Arbitration in 2017