While the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is headquartered in Washington, D.C., its footprint is truly global.
Cases involve States and foreign investors from all over the world, and they may elect to hold hearings in any location that they wish. That means ICSID must be able to accommodate complex proceedings, often in numerous languages, around the world.
In recent years, ICSID has organized hearings in Auckland, Istanbul, Madrid, and Tegucigalpa—to name a few cities. Over the last year alone, ICSID held over 180 case-related sessions and hearings—96 of which were conducted in two or more languages.
ICSID's new hearing centre in Washington, D.C., was launched in January 2019, and further expanded in November 2019. It now features three large hearing rooms—with capacity for over 50 individuals each—and eight break-out rooms for parties and tribunals.
ICSID's hearing centre has been tailored to the needs of international investment arbitrations, conciliations and mediations. Key considerations include:
- Connectivity: Over the last year, nearly 60% of sessions and hearings were conducted either by phone or video conference. Even when hearings are held in person, witnesses or other participants may need to participate remotely. As such, ICSID's video-conferencing technology is fully integrated into its hearing facilities, allowing for a seamless combination of face-to-face and virtual communication in multiple languages.
- Security: Both cybersecurity and physical security are concerns for parties involved in international disputes. ICSID benefits from the World Bank Group's world-class information technology security, and has developed sophisticated systems for managing case filings electronically. As most ICSID hearings are conducted in World Bank Group buildings, parties are also protected with round-the-clock physical security systems.
- Public Access: ICSID arbitrations are increasingly open to the public. This is a trend that is likely to continue, as transparency is mandated in a growing number of investment treaties. ICSID's facilities are designed to accommodate all levels of public access—from closed-circuit television on World Bank premises to live global broadcasts on the internet.
- Language Capabilities: Nearly half of ICSID hearings are conducted in two languages—and there is often a need to accommodate more. Therefore, all ICSID hearing rooms come equipped with sound-proof interpretation with capacity for up to seven languages at a time.
Paris is frequently the location for ICSID hearings—due in no small part to the World Bank Conference Center. Its three hearing rooms comfortably seat more than 100 persons, and come with the technology needed to conduct complex, multi-language hearings.
Outside of Washington, D.C., ICSID offers parties a range of options. One is the offices of the World Bank Group. ICSID also enters into cooperation agreements with other premiere dispute settlement centers, which allow ICSID to hold hearings at their facilities. To date, ICSID has entered into 23 cooperation agreements, including with the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission in Beijing, and the newly launched Kigali International Arbitration Centre.
Importantly, these agreements are about more than sharing facilities. They also encourage the partnering institutions to exchange information about their respective activities, as well as local, regional and international trends—thus furthering the development of international dispute settlement globally. In short, another way in which ICSID extends its footprint.