The 2023 UNCITRAL South Asia Conference, jointly hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), UNCITRAL and the UNCITRAL National Coordination Committee for India (UNCCI) was inaugurated by the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dr Justice DY Chandrachud in the presence of Minister of State for External Affairs (MoS), Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, the Learned Attorney General for India Mr. R Venkataramani, Secretary of UNCITRAL Ms. Anna Joubin-Bret and noted jurist, Senior Advocate and Chair of UNCCI Mr. Fali S Nariman.New Delhi
The three day conference is in continuation of the conference hosted in New Delhi, in 2016 to celebrate 50 years of UNCITRAL and is aimed at furthering India’s engagement with UNCITRAL and to encourage interaction between UNCITRAL, Judiciary, bureaucracy, academia and the legal fraternity.
The Economic Diplomacy division of the MEA had set up the arbitration cell as a point of repository of investment treaty, UNCITRAL and arbitration related issues. The division has over the years organised various conferences and capacity building workshops which was acknowledged by the CJI.
In his inaugural address, the CJI Dr. DY Chandrachud mentioned about his participation at the previous conference in 2016 where he spoke about ISDS reforms which at that point was an unsettled question on whether UNCITRAL should address the topic and he pointed out that it has come a long way since then with the UNCITRAL Commission having just adopted the first texts on ISDS reforms. He pointed out that this was an example of the pivotal role played by India at UNCITRAL in having this topic allotted to a Working Group of UNCITRAL. He also pointed out that International investment law has been criticized for being disadvantageous to developing countries, and mentioned that it was essential that the formulation of any new systems in international investment law, such as the creation of a permanent court, adequately account for these concerns and ensure that they do not remain areas of concern as the need of the hour is a fair and balanced system for the resolution of investor-state disputes.
MoS Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh mentioned that India shares a unique relationship with UNCITRAL and has been a member of UNCITRAL since its inception being one of the first 29 member States. He also mentioned about the diversity of the region and the economic strides made by the South Asian Region.
The Attorney General for India, Mr. R Venkataramani also mentioned about the fallacies facing the investment treaty regime and the need to revisit the same. He mentioned about the need for a Declaration on Global Investment Law, spearheaded by India and expressed hope of having a New Delhi Convention.
Secretary of UNCITRAL, Ms. Anna Joubin-Bret gave an overview of the various projects and subjects undertaken by UNCITRAL through its Working Groups and the status of the same.
Noted Jurist and Chair of UNCCI, Mr. Fali S Nariman concluded the inaugural session where he spoke about the ailments faced by the international arbitration system including the debate on arbitrator bias. He called for the need to have a balanced and fair system of arbitration.
The inaugural session of the conference saw the presence of judges of the Supreme Court of India, judges from various High Courts across the country, Senior Advocates, legal experts from across the world, academia and the government.
The comprehensive agenda, of the conference includes sessions featuring global and regional experts providing insights on a wide range of topics such as the digital economy, MSMEs and access to credit, insolvency, investor-state dispute settlement reform, international commercial arbitration, and mediation. Highlights of the conference include the High-level Roundtable on Regional Perspectives on UNCITRAL and the final day focusing on alternative dispute resolution developments including a session where the panellists include judges from four High Courts from the various regions of the Country discussing on How to make India a hub for arbitration.
The Economic Diplomacy division of the Ministry has been actively involved in the activities of UNCITRAL including the reforms to ISDS and promoting India as a hub for arbitration. Through this conference, the Ministry hopes to reach out to the legal fraternity and policy makers in promoting India as a hub for arbitration and in the field of capacity building in international trade law to promote best practices and improve the ease of doing business.
September 15, 2023