A series of fortunate events: a tribute to the ICCA Congress Series

By Lauren Voges


When the first volume of the ICCA Congress Series was published in 1983, General Editor and then ICCA President Professor Piet Sanders expressed the hope that the development of a Congress Series produced by ICCA would be “a valuable addition to the series of ICCA’s Yearbooks”. Now, 34 years and 17 Congresses later, the ICCA Congress Series is one of ICCA’s flagship publications, a resource for arbitration scholars and practitioners worldwide and a vibrant record of the development of arbitration over the last 35 years. As we celebrate the release of the 19th volume of the ICCA Congress Series, International Arbitration and the Rule of Law: Contribution and Conformity, we take a moment to acknowledge the history of this remarkable publication.


While the first ICCA Congress was held in Paris in 1961, it was not until the seventh ICCA Congress in Hamburg in 1982 that ICCA decided to publish the papers of its Congresses and Interim Meetings itself. As explained by Professor Sanders in the first volume of the Congress Series, ICCA’s decision to take responsibility for publishing Congress papers “frees the organizers of these meetings from the burden of preparing such publications and of their distribution”.


Prior to the publication of the first volume of the ICCA Congress Series, compilations of materials from the Congresses or Interim meetings were published by the likes of Revue de l’Arbitrage, Associazone Italiana per l’Arbitrato, the USSR Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Indian Council of Arbitration and the Cámara Nacional de Comercio de la Ciudad de México. Publication by these journals and institutions served as a stamp of approval on ICCA Congresses and their dynamic, progressive rhetoric, and paved the way for a dedicated ICCA Congress Series, now meticulously prepared in ICCA’s offices at the Peace Palace in The Hague by ICCA Assistant Managing Editor Alice Siegel.


But what makes the ICCA Congress Series such a relevant publication? Perhaps this question is best answered by those most closely acquainted with ICCA’s history.


Former ICCA Publications Managing Editor Judith Freedberg worked on the ICCA Congress Series from its inception in 1982 until 2007 – editing 13 volumes of the ICCA Congress Series. Asked why it was important to record ICCA Congresses in the form of a Congress Series, Freedberg noted: “ICCA has always been a thought-leader in the field of international arbitration. It led the way in bringing a diverse group of international arbitration specialists together to promote international arbitration and to disseminate knowledge in the field. The organizers of the Congresses have continued to lead and explore original and relevant topics, even as the number of conferences and publications proliferate.”


Each volume of the ICCA Congress Series is not only a collection of valuable resources researched and produced by some of the finest minds in arbitration – it’s a record of what was relevant at the time, and thus, a record of the development of international arbitration. ICCA President Donald Donovan, who served as Programme Chair for the 2006 Montreal Congress and 2008 Dublin Congress, underscores this sentiment: “The ICCA Congresses are at the core of our work, and so too is the ICCA Congress Series.  While we make a real effort to ensure that the Congresses, as an event, provide both compelling intellectual content and a lively opportunity to meet with other arbitration professionals, it is the Congress Series that ensures that the Congress has lasting impact.”


From Chief Tinuade Oyekunle SAN’s 1982 keynote address – the first ICCA Congress keynote delivered by an African woman – to Professor Sanders’ 1998 address on the then 40-year history of the New York Convention, the ICCA Congress Series serves as a tangible record of some of ICCA’s, and even arbitration’s, best moments.


For Professor Albert Jan van den Berg, a former General Editor of the Congress Series, one of these moments was the 2016 Congress in Mauritius, which he described as a “unique meeting of the representatives of many arbitral institutions in an African country.”


For many ICCA Council members, the 2011 conference held in Geneva to celebrate ICCA’s 50th anniversary was another special moment, recorded in the 16th edition of the Congress Series. Over 500 ICCA Council Members, prominent arbitration experts and emerging young practitioners gathered to reflect on developments in the field of arbitration since ICCA’s formation 50 years earlier and to contemplate ICCA’s mission for the next 50 years. Included in the 16th edition of the ICCA Congress Series is V. V. Veeder Q.C.’s gala dinner speech, which highlights memories of ICCA’s first 50 years.


V.V. Veeder, a long-serving ICCA Governing Board Member, also served as Programme Chair for the 2012 ICCA Congress in Singapore. In looking back to the 2012 Congress, Veeder pinpoints another reason the Congress Series is so relevant: it maps the history of arbitration. “As part of the ICCA Congress Series, the ICCA Singapore Congress is a permanent record of an important turning point in the development of international arbitration. Until then, the sun shone (mostly). Thereafter, the rains came, with ISDS haters, arbitral myths and new hostilities towards arbitrators and arbitration practitioners. With the ICCA Congress series, future historians will be able to see how and why the arbitral pendulum invariably swings one way and, eventually, back again. But why wait for them, when we can read it now for ourselves?”


As memorably put by Professor Sanders in 1961: “Our Congress will be a congress of work rather than one of dining and dancing.” The Congress Series is proof of this; it is a record of the compelling content of the last 19 ICCA Congresses and a record of the developments in arbitration over the last 35 years. Here’s to the next 35 years of ICCA Congresses and the ICCA Congress Series. 


The 19th volume of the ICCA Congress Series, International Arbitration and the Rule of Law: Contribution and Conformity (General Editor Andrea Menaker), is now available at KluwerArbitration.com. ICCA Members enjoy a 10% discount on the purchase price.