16 February 2018

Dawn of International Arbitration in the South Pacific

The Permanent Court of Arbitration was proud to participate in the “Dawn of International Arbitration in the South Pacific: Regional Arbitration Conference” in Fiji this week. The conference, supported by the Asia Development Bank and the United Nations Commission for International Trade Law, was the first of its kind in the region. The conference discussed the positive development impact of international arbitration reform in the South Pacific and provided in-depth coverage of the practical aspects of different types of disputes in the region and globally, with specialized interactive sessions for different stakeholders. Attendees at the conference included government officials, policy makers, development partners, judges, law practitioners and representatives from the private sector. Among them were the Chief Justice of Fiji, the Solicitor General of Fiji, and the Minister of Justice for Tonga.
PCA Senior Legal Counsel, Ms. Judith Levine, addressed the conference on arbitration of climate finance related disputes. Climate change is of pressing concern to those from South Pacific island states, as felt acutely in the aftermath of cyclone Gita, which devastated Tonga this week. Ms. Levine provided an introduction to how disputes may arise in connection with climate change and the UN legal framework, recalling examples of PCA interstate, investor-state and contract-based cases in recent years. She then focused on the types of disputes that could lend themselves to arbitration in the climate finance context, and pointed to existing agreements to arbitrate under the 2012 PCA Rules in contribution, accreditation and project agreements connected with the Green Climate Fund. She also reflected on the ways in which arbitration has been able to adapt to suit climate-change related disputes with regard to accessibility, appreciation of technical evidence, and flexibility in dispute resolution mechanisms.
The PCA had recently participated in the Fiji-led UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn last November. (COP23) Fiji is the only island state in the South Pacific region that is a contracting party to the PCA’s founding conventions. Fiji recently signed the New York Convention and passed new legislation for international arbitration, based on the UNCITRAL Model Law.
Ms. Levine also spoke at a breakfast event for women in arbitration, alongside other representatives of arbitral institutions, UNCITRAL, the ADB and global law firms. The previous week, in conjunction with the conference, the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) had contributed to a workshop for regional judges on implementation of the New York Convention, along with its guide for judges.

Delegates during Keynote Address by Gary Born

PCA Senior Legal Counsel Judith Levine with HKIAC Secretary General Sarah Grimmer

Women’s Breakfast, from the Cook Islands Crown Law Office, Port Moresby ADB office; and Fiji Revenue office

Conference attendees

Ms Levine speaking about arbitration and climate finance disputes

Minister of Justice of Tonga, Hon. Vusna Fa’otusia, Ms Levine of the PCA, Ms Ana Tuiketei, a Fijian lawyer;, and CEO of Tonga’s Ministry of Justice, Ms. Susana Faletau