05 July 2022

Secretary-General Briefs Administrative Council on 4 July 2022

At the 207th meeting of the Administrative Council on 4 July 2022, the Secretary-General, Mr. Marcin Czepelak, presented his assessment of the situation of the Court, reflected on opportunities and challenges, and updated the members of the Administrative Council on the PCA’s activities. The meeting was held at the PCA’s headquarters at the Peace Palace in The Hague.

At the outset, the Secretary-General recalled the duty of the Contracting Parties under the 1907 Hague Conventions for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes to remind each other in case of “a serious dispute” that the Permanent Court “is open to them” and that they may “always address to the International Bureau a note containing a declaration that [they] would be ready to submit the dispute to arbitration.”

The Secretary-General reported on the PCA’s present activities. The PCA’s International Bureau, composed of over 60 professionals holding 37 different nationalities, is as busy as ever, dealing with a caseload of over 175 pending proceedings. The Secretary-General also highlighted the active participation of senior members of the International Bureau in a variety of multilateral fora, including the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the meeting of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), intergovernmental discussions concerning the establishment of an arbitration mechanism for the resolution of disputes under double taxation treaties, and discussions on corporate social responsibility (also referred to as “business and human rights” disputes).

Observing that the founders of the PCA deliberately refrained from limiting the role of the Court to any particular subject-matter, the PCA is well-positioned to adapt to a changing world. For example, the Secretary-General noted that the Court is increasingly seized with mixed disputes under infrastructure and natural resources contracts involving States or State entities. In the future, a greater role in international disputes concerning taxation, climate change, or corporate social responsibility may be envisaged.

As part of the PCA’s commitment not only to be accessible “at all times” (as required by the Hague Conventions) but also to be accessible to parties in all parts of the world, the Secretary-General underlined that the PCA already operates from permanent offices in Argentina, Mauritius and Singapore as well as its headquarters in the Netherlands. In addition, the PCA has recently opened offices in Austria and Viet Nam. All offices are, or will shortly be, staffed on a permanent basis by one or several PCA lawyers as well as case managers.

In closing, the Secretary-General reaffirmed his commitment to keep dialogue open, and continue engaging actively, with the Contracting Parties. While the International Bureau considers it important that the PCA’s Contracting Parties are fully informed about the work of the institution, conversely, the Secretary-General expressed the hope that representatives of the PCA’s Contracting Parties will share their ideas with the International Bureau and entrust the institution with their dispute settlement needs.

Mr. Czepelak took office as Secretary-General of the PCA on 1 June 2022. He was elected for a five-year term by the Administrative Council on 14 February 2022.