Port-Louis, Mauritius

9 May 2016

Secretary-General's address to International Council for Commercial Arbitration Congress

I am delighted to join you in the beautiful State of Mauritius. I thank the Government and people of Mauritius for their warn hospitality and invitation to this very important conference.

I welcome this opportunity to address the distinguished members of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration.  You are good partners of the United Nations, and you have an important role to play in our efforts to build a better world for all.. 

Arbitration has long been part of the work of the United Nations, going back to the Covenant of the League of Nations.  Our founding Charter specifically mentions arbitration as one of the peaceful means we are meant to use in resolving disputes.

Just as the United Nations encourages States and other antagonists to resolve their disputes at the negotiating table, so do businesses.  It is always preferable to resolve disputes in a quick, effective and constructive manner.  Otherwise, disputes and uncertainty can lead to additional costs and losses.  Commercial arbitration is therefore of great benefit in economic and financial terms -- but it is also good for society in general.

The United Nations is proud to have contributed to the development of international arbitration.

Within the United Nations system, the Commission on International Trade Law, known to all of you as UNCITRAL, has made great strides in creating a favourable environment for resolving disputes.  More generally, UNCITRAL’s efforts to harmonize and modernize international trade law have helped States to enhance the business environment, thereby contributing to sustainable development and growth.

This is the first time in the ICCA’s 50-year history that your Congress is being held in Africa. 

The choice of Mauritius as the place for such an important gathering reflects the country’s achievements in the field.  Arbitration is only possible when there is a sound legislative framework supported by the relevant infrastructure. 

Mauritius has developed that framework and infrastructure quickly, over the past ten years.  It did so with crucial capacity-building support from UNCITRAL.  Mauritius has not simply adopted norms developed by others.  It has played a key role in UNCITRAL’s work, taking the lead in UNCITRAL’s groundbreaking efforts to advance greater transparency. 

Beyond the resolution of commercial disputes, arbitration is increasingly used to resolve disputes between investors and the States that have received their investment.  Since such cases can have ramifications for public finances, transparency is essential.

I commend the work of Mauritius and of UNCITRAL’s past chairman, Mr. Salim Moollan, in helping to elaborate norms for arbitral transparency -- and in leading the negotiations that resulted in the Mauritius Convention -- the first multilateral Convention in the field of arbitration in the past 50 years.

The “Mauritius Convention on Transparency” promises to be a turning point in investment arbitration.  My hope is that this [instrument] can bring greater efficiency and coherence to a system currently based on more than 3,000 treaties.

Similar gains are under way across Africa, as an increasing number of arbitral institutions pave the way for a more arbitration-friendly environment.  I recommend that those States willing to undertake legislative reform in the field of arbitration consider the adoption of UNCITRAL norms and standards, and the use of UNCITRAL’s capacity building expertise.   The United Nations looks forward to continuing to work with the other organizations that are active in law reform and capacity building, including of course the ICCA.

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Je me réjouis de ce que le thème principal du Congrès soit l’état de droit.

Si l’état de droit est une notion abstraite pour la plupart des gens, il s’agit en revanche d’un principe bien concret pour l’Organisation des Nations Unies et les peuples qu’elle sert. L’état de droit peut prendre la forme d’une carte d’électeur, d’un contrat ou encore d’un titre de propriété. Il est essentiel au fonctionnement des économies et facilite l’accès aux services de base, ainsi que l’instauration d’un système judiciaire indépendant, d’institutions efficaces et d’une bonne gouvernance. Il permet de protéger les droits de l’homme – et de faire en sorte que la justice soit rendue lorsque ces droits sont violés.

C’est pourquoi l’état de droit est un élément essentiel dans tous nos travaux. Il figure en bonne place dans le Programme de développement durable à l’horizon 2030, un document historique adopté en septembre dernier par les 193 États Membres de l’Organisation et qui repose sur 17 objectifs de développement durable, dont l’objectif 16, qui consiste à promouvoir l’avènement de sociétés justes, pacifiques et inclusives.

Alors que nous nous efforçons de concrétiser ces objectifs pour améliorer sensiblement la vie des gens, l’Organisation des Nations Unies attend de tous ceux qui participent à des procédures d’arbitrage qu’ils continuent de s’investir et de tirer parti des progrès accomplis au fil des ans.

À titre d’exemple, l’arbitrage peut jouer un rôle clef pour ce qui est de restaurer l’état de droit après un conflit, puisqu’établir un système judiciaire pleinement indépendant peut prendre du temps. Je vous invite instamment à examiner la façon dont vous pouvez appuyer les efforts des Nations Unies dans ce domaine.

L’arbitrage peut aussi contribuer à résoudre les différends entre états non commerciaux. Ainsi, la Convention des Nations Unies sur le droit de la mer prévoit la possibilité de régler les différends relatifs aux questions d’interprétation et d’application par arbitrage. Maurice a d’ailleurs eu recours à ce mécanisme dans l’affaire de l’aire marine protégée des Chagos, pour laquelle la Cour permanente d’arbitrage a assuré des services de greffe. Cette procédure a les mêmes avantages que l’arbitrage commercial, en ce qu’elle permet une résolution rapide et efficace des litiges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I again thank the Government of Mauritius and the ICCA for hosting and organizing this meaningful event.

It is not often that I address such a renowned group of arbitration experts.

I welcome your commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes -- a fundamental goal of the United Nations.  I also attach great importance to our deepening partnership with the business community, and welcome the presence of the private sector here in Mauritius today.

This is a time of test.  We face multiple conflicts, rising violent extremism, growing inequality, and the widening impacts of climate change. 

Yet I remain hopeful about our ability to come together for the common good.

Despite many global divisions, world leaders united to adopt the 2030 Agenda.

And last month, on April 22nd, the United Nations made history when 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Never before have so many countries signed an international agreement in one day.  The last record of such was when 119 countries went to Jamaica to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982.

The number has since risen to 177 – two more countries.  I am pleased to note that Mauritius has both signed and deposit the instrument of ratification on the same day, at the same time.

I ask all of you to use the great power of arbitration to help the world overcome conflict and hatred and build a future of dignity for all on a healthy planet.

Thank you for your attention. Thank you very much.