Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is an intergovernmental organization located in The  Hague, Netherlands. It is not a court in the traditional sense but provides services of arbitral tribunal to resolve disputes that arise out of international agreements between member states,  international organizations or private parties. 

  • The cases span a range of legal issues involving territorial and maritime boundaries,  sovereignty, human rights, international investment, and international and regional trade.  
  • The PCA is constituted through two separate multilateral conventions with a combined membership of 122 states. 
  • The organization is not a United Nations agency but the PCA is an official United Nations  Observer 
  • The Peace Palace was built from 1907 to 1913 for the PCA in The Hague. 
  • In addition, the building houses the Hague Academy of International Law, Peace Palace  Library and the International Court of Justice.

HISTORY 

  • The PCA is the oldest institution for international dispute resolutions. It was established in 1899 by the first Hague Peace Conference under Articles 20 to 29 of the 1899 Hague  Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes.  
  • At the Second Hague Peace Conference, the earlier Convention was revised by the 1907  Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes.  
  • The Conference was convened at the initiative of Czar Nicholas II of Russia "with the  object of seeking the most objective means of ensuring to all peoples the benefits of a  real and lasting peace, and above all, of limiting the progressive development of existing  armaments." 

OBJECTIVE 

The objective is “to facilitate the arbitration of international disputes”.

STRUCTURE 

  • It consists of an Administrative Council and an International Bureau. 
  • The Court is not ‘permanent’ in nature; rather it is a Court selected from among a  permanent panel of arbitrators. 
  • Each member is eligible to nominate four persons who have competency in International law and who are of the highest moral reputation and have the ability to accept the duties of an arbitrator. 
  • There are 225 arbitrators, appointed for a six-year term. 
  • The Administrative Council is composed of diplomatic representatives of the contracting parties accredited to The Hague. 
  • The President of the Council is the foreign minister of the Netherlands. 
  • The administrative organ of the Court is the International Bureau which channels communication regarding meetings of the Court. 
  • It serves as a registry and maintains archives. 

What are the activities of the Permanent Court of Arbitration? 

  • Arbitration has remained a rather infrequent means of resolving international disputes,  though the UN Charter allows the states to settle their differences in tribunals other than the ICJ (International Court of Justice).  
  • The Court had a very limited role for several decades. 
  • It adopted a new set of optimal rules in 1992 for giving greater flexibility and greater use of its resources for arbitrating disputes between the states.  
  • In 1993, it adopted certain new rules for arbitrating disputes between a state and a non-party state. 
  • The PCA held its first Conference of Members in 1993 to discuss the future of the Court and established a Steering Committee. Under the new rule, the Court can arbitrate disputes both within and between inter-governmental organisations or between private corporations. 
  • The Court established a Financial Assistance Fund to help developing nations in meeting the costs incurred in bringing cases before it. 

BUDGET AND FEES 

  • The budget of PCA comes from the contributions of its members and income through arbitration cases.  
  • The distribution of the amounts to be paid by the individual member states is based on the system in use by the Universal Postal Union. 
  • Parties to arbitration have to pay the expenses of the arbitral tribunal set up to hear the case, including the salary of the arbitrators, registry and administrative functions, but not including the overhead of the organization). 
  • The costs of arbitration vary from case to case and discussions may be held between the  PCA and the parties over fee arrangements 
  • The fixed costs for action as an appointing authority are €3000 

FUNCTIONS 

PCA tribunals have jurisdiction for disputes based on the PCA founding documents (the  Conventions on Pacific Settlement of International Disputes) or based on bilateral and multilateral treaties. Its Secretary-General furthermore acts as an appointing authority for arbitration.  

Appointing authority 

  • When problems arise in designating arbitrators for arbitration under UNCITRAL arbitration rules (e.g. because one of the parties refuses to designate an arbitrator, or 

when the designated arbitrators are unable to agree on designation of a third arbitrator), the PCA Secretary-General may be requested to serve as appointing authority.  

  • This option is also open for other arbitration agreements, in which the Secretary  General is designated. Between 2011 and 2015, 257 of such requests were submitted. 

Interstate arbitration based on the Hague Convention 

  • Arbitration between two states takes place when two member states of the PCA decide to submit a dispute for arbitration to a PCA Tribunal.  
  • The Tribunal consists of 5 arbitrators, two of which are selected by each party to the arbitration (and one of whom may be a national of the party concerned).  
  • The four arbitrators choose the fifth and presiding arbitrator

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Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor