The purpose of the first session of the Commission is to ascertain the parties’ agreements or separate views on procedural questions such as the applicable conciliation rules, language(s) to be used, place of proceedings, and the procedural calendar. The session enables the Commission to fix dates and establish specific rules for a case in a procedural order.
The first session should be held within 60 days after the constitution of the Commission, unless the parties agree otherwise (Article 20(1) of the Conciliation (Additional Facility) Rules). When each conciliator is appointed, ICSID ascertains their availability to ensure a timely first session. Once the Commission is constituted, the Secretary of the Commission contacts the parties with proposed date(s) and venue (or a proposal for a telephone or videoconference) for the first session.
If the parties and the Commission cannot be available within the 60-day period and cannot agree on an extension of this time limit, the Commission 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 Commission approves such venue and there are suitable facilities. The Commission often proposes a venue for the parties’ consideration.
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 World Bank premises or at the premises of other dispute resolution 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 costs and travel time. However, this decision is taken by the Commission 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 Commission wish to establish at the outset of the proceeding.
The Secretary of the Commission usually circulates a draft agenda approved by the Commission 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 27 of the Conciliation (Additional Facility) Rules). The agenda is often accompanied by a draft procedural order to guide the parties in reaching agreements on specific issues.
The agreements reached and the decisions made by the Commission are included in a procedural order which is signed by the President of the Commission and circulated to the parties by the Secretary of the Commission promptly after the first session.