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The rise of Madrid as a seat of international arbitration: The ICCA selects Madrid to host the 27th ICCA Congress in 2026

Photo by Víctor Elvira Ávalos / Unsplash

On 18 September 2022, following the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) Governing Board meeting (alongside its 25th Congress in Edinburgh), the ICCA announced that it had selected Madrid to host the 27th ICCA Congress in 2026 over such cities as over Dubai, Kigali and Vancouver.

The Club Español del Arbitraje (CEA) will be the Host institution of 27th ICCA Congress, scheduled to be held during the spring of 2026. The exact dates will be announced in due course.

This prestigious event takes place every two years. The 25th ICCA Congress in Edinburgh, however, was postponed three times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Entitled "The Age of Enlightenment in Arbitration," the Edinburgh event served as an opportunity for the international arbitration community to look back on what has been achieved so far and to discuss new ideas aimed at coping with a fast-moving world and shape the international arbitration community’s future as a whole.

During the event, a variety of topics were discussed in and between the Plenary session and the 14 Panels that followed. Topics ranged from international arbitration’s chances to adapt to a world sliding towards unilateralism, protectionism and nationalism, passing through the new developments and reform in international investment arbitration, to the topic of arbitration in the age of (post-pandemic) technology.

The 26th ICCA Congress is to be hosted in Hong Kong, from 5 through 8 May 2024.

Behind Madrid’s Selection as the Venue for the 27th ICCA Congress

International arbitrators Patricia Saiz (Academic Director of International Relations, ESADE Law School) and David Arias (PhD, Professor of Procedural Law and Arbitrator) led the bidding process for Madrid.

iarbnews talked with arbitrator David Arias about the bidding process and what makes Madrid (and Spain more generally) the go-to seat for resolving international disputes in Latin America and beyond.

From the outset, Mr Arias made it clear that Madrid’s bid for the 27th ICCA Congress was supported by a number of arbitral institutions and associations, as well as national and international law firms. The regional and city governments of Madrid also backed the initiative. “Hosting this event in Madrid will indeed contribute to the branding of Madrid (and Spain in general) as an important arbitration hub for the international arbitration community,” he explained.

Elaborating, Mr. Arias said that “international arbitration is consolidated in Spain and keeps growing.” In his view, “the fact that Madrid has been selected to host the 2026 ICCA will definitely help to brand Madrid as a global, leading, arbitration-friendly city and will provide significant exposure to the practice of arbitration in Spain.”

“This event will serve to raise awareness of the benefits of international arbitration among Spanish companies and law firms that, as of today, remain unaware of, or unconvinced by, the significant advantages offered by international arbitration. It will also allow Madrid courts to have first-hand contact with the international arbitration community and strengthen ties between judges and arbitration practitioners,” he added.

The increasing importance and use of Spanish as a language chosen by parties to conduct international arbitration proceedings is undeniable, and this new scenario is contributing to promote Madrid as an arbitration hub for Spanish speaking parties in Latin America and beyond. In that regard, Mr. Arias stated that “the selection of Madrid to host the 2026 ICCA Congress is viewed as an endorsement for the Spanish-speaking arbitration community. Indeed, the Congress will gather arbitration practitioners from all around the globe, but there will surely be a strong representation of Spanish speakers from Latin America and beyond.”

Moreover, Mr. Arias is of the opinion that “this event will offer an excellent opportunity for the Latin America arbitration community to see that Madrid is an appealing place for their international arbitrations because it offers an arbitration-friendly regulatory context, a judiciary body that is very well aware of its functioning, excellent facilities at competitive prices and a committed local arbitration community.”

The ICCA Congress bidding process

According to the Guidelines for the hosting of ICCA Congresses and Conferences, the hosting of an ICCA Congress or Conference is a co-operation between the ICCA and the ICCA Foundation Inc. and a hosting organisation.

A prospective host presents its candidacy at a meeting of the ICCA Governing Board, typically four years ahead of the scheduled date of the event.

Five months before the above mentioned meeting, the bidder will present its detailed outline of its candidacy to the President of the ICCA for its referral to the Congress Committee. This body recommends pre-qualification of the candidacies to the Executive Body of the ICCA. In turn, the Executive Body makes a pre-qualification decision which is communicated to the incumbent prospective Hosts.

Finally, once the final proposals are presented by the prospective candidates, the ICCA Governing Board and the Board of the ICCA Foundation makes the final selection of the Host at its full discretion.

In doing so, the Board will take into consideration a number of criteria, including, inter alia,  the structure and corporate identity of the prospective Host; support of the national or regional arbitration community; the reputation domestically and internationally of the prospective Host; support of the government authorities; travel access to the Event destination; Event meeting facilities (including plenary sessions, break-out sessions and ICCA Meetings).