First Session - ICSID Convention
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 (Arbitration Rule 13(1)). 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 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 Tribunal cannot meet 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 by default at the seat of the Centre in Washington, D.C. (Article 63 of the ICSID Convention and Arbitration Rule 13(3)).
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 arbitration centers (organizations with which ICSID has concluded collaboration agreements). The cost of room rentals in World Bank’s facilities are covered by ICSID's administrative charges.
An increasing number of first sessions are held by telephone or videoconference to reduce costs and travel time. 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. The draft agenda has been developed by the Centre taking into account standard procedural items, such as the procedural calendar (Arbitration Rule 20). The agenda is often accompanied by a draft procedural order to guide the parties in reaching agreements 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 (See ICSID's Draft Procedural Order No. 1).