The purpose of the first session of the Tribunal is to ascertain the parties’ agreements or separate views on procedural questions such as the applicable arbitration rules, language(s) to be used, place of proceedings, and the procedural calendar. The session enables the Tribunal to set a schedule and establish specific rules for each case in a procedural order.
The first session should be held within 60 days after the constitution of the Tribunal, unless the parties agree otherwise (Article 21(1) of the Arbitration (Additional Facility) Rules). When each arbitrator is appointed, ICSID ascertains their availability to ensure a timely first session. Once the Tribunal is constituted, the Secretary of the Tribunal determines the availability of the Tribunal members and contacts the parties with proposed date(s) and venue (or, where appropriate, a proposal for a telephone- or videoconference) for the first session.
If the parties and the Tribunal cannot be available within the 60-day period and cannot agree on an extension of this time limit, the Tribunal will proceed without the parties but will take their written submissions into account.
Organizing the First Session
A first session can be held in person, by telephone or by videoconference.
The parties may agree on any location for the first session, provided that the Tribunal approves such venue and there are suitable facilities. The Tribunal often proposes a venue for the parties’ consideration. If there is no agreement, an in-person meeting will take place at a location determined by the Tribunal (Article 20(1) of the Arbitration (Additional Facility) Rules).
Most in-person first sessions are held at the World Bank’s facilities in Washington, D.C., or Paris, France. ICSID can also arrange hearings at other locations around the world, especially at World Bank premises or at the premises of other arbitration centers (organizations with which ICSID has concluded collaboration agreements). The rentals of rooms at the World Bank’s facilities are included in ICSID's administrative charges.
An increasing number of first sessions are held by telephone or videoconference to reduce cost and travel time. However, this decision is taken by the Tribunal and the parties, considering factors such as the number of outstanding issues.
Issues to be Discussed
The first session addresses any matters of procedure that the parties and the Tribunal wish to establish at the outset of the proceeding.
The Secretary of the Tribunal circulates a draft agenda approved by the Tribunal to the parties for their comments well in advance of a first session. A model draft agenda has been developed by the Centre taking into account standard procedural items, such as the procedural calendar (Article 20 of the Arbitration (Additional Facility) Rules). The agenda is often accompanied by a draft procedural order to guide the parties in reaching agreement on specific issues.
The first session sometimes includes oral submissions on a party’s request for bifurcation of the proceeding, request for provisional measures or a request to dispose of the matter because the claim is manifestly without legal merit.
The agreements reached and the procedural decisions taken by the Tribunal are included in a procedural order which is signed by the President of the Tribunal and circulated to the parties by the Secretary of the Tribunal promptly after the first session.