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This guide was originally created by Caitlin Hunter in 2018 and is regularly updated by the library staff. 

About International Arbitration

Arbitration occurs when parties agree to submit their disputes to a private decision maker, rather than a court. Decision makers can be anyone specified by the parties but are usually lawyers, legal scholars, or judges acting outside their official capacity. Parties can specify any number of arbitrators but most commonly select either one arbitrator or a panel of 3 arbitrators. Arbitration can be ad hoc or through an established arbitration organization, such as the International Court of Arbitration.

Arbitration is a particularly popular way of resolving international disputes and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) works to facilitate and promote its use. International arbitration is typically governed by the following standards:

  • The laws of the nation hosting the arbitration, which will determine whether and how the arbitration agreement is enforced. Many countries have adopted national arbitration statutes based on UNCITRAL's Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.
  • The arbitration rules selected by the parties. Most established arbitral organizations have their own rules. Alternatively, many parties choose to use the model arbitration rules drafted by UNCITRAL. 
  • The New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, a multilateral treaty drafted by UNCITRAL that generally requires courts in member states to enforce most foreign arbitration awards.

The Best Starting Point for International Arbitration Research

The best starting point for researching international arbitration issues is: