During the 73rd sessions of the general assembly at the UN, the crunch of unilateralism and multilateralism between US and China kicked off, in which Trump’s unilateral visualization of the world likely to hurt the US, but it might undermine his presidency. As the competitions between unilateralism and multilateralism are viewed inversely. According to the international relations scholars, unilateralism has defined an approach in international relations in which states act without regard to the interests of other states or without their support. Unilateralism is usually contrasted with its opposite approach, yet multilateralism is acting cooperatively with other states. Though unilateralism is often used in a negative way, experts agree that there are positive aspects to occasionally acting unilaterally, such as in issues of national self-defense.
Some politicians and international experts support unilateralism, at least for certain issues. An example of a unilateral action is the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord in 2017. The Paris Climate Accord was actually negotiated and approved by nearly 200 nations around the world, and the issue of climate change is impossible to be handled significantly without united efforts of all the countries, particular the major ones. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, saying that it hurt American jobs and American interests as well. Trump’s decision was opposed by many experts and average people around the world including the United States.
Nevertheless, it is believed that unilateralism is a policy of dealing with affairs that may be violent, regardless of the will of other countries or nationals. Given this, the most prominent feature of multilateralism is the negotiation since it can pay close attention to the shared interests of the majority and take practical and reasonable measures to deal with affairs in international affairs. The U.S. adopts unilateralism as a kind of closed rather than open behavior. Self-interest is the American priority mentality that Trump previously reiterated, and this approach seems to be a good way to safeguard the interests of the United States, but in fact, it is inconvenient for American nationals, and for the United States. Conversely, politics, diplomacy, and trade all have disadvantages and this disadvantage can be a hindrance to domestic investment, risk from political changes negative influence on exchange rates, higher costs, economic non-viability, expropriation, negative impact on the country’s investment, modern-day economic colonialism and etc.
From this point of view, it can be said unfavorable to Americans. The reason why the United States has become strong from a dispersed federation compared with the confederation is mainly between states. Improvement of politics and other status has enabled the United States to develop and be strong because of a strong government. If the United States 1787 Constitution was originally formulated by the founding fathers’ generation, and then adopted unilateralism and did not negotiate, it is unimaginable that there would be a powerful United States today. So now Trump adopts unilateralism, which is contrary to the spirit and method adopted by the U.S. Constitution. The threat to his presidency is great because unilateralism is difficult to promote the cooperation and development of national economies. The interests generated by the United States are very short-lived, but they pose great threats to their long-term development and the long-term interests of their citizens. Therefore, when dealing with state affairs or international affairs, multilateralism should be adopted and negotiated. The problem is that we can better safeguard the interests of all parties, maximize the benefits, and promote the development of countries and their own economies.
In conclusion, it is important to understand the evolution of China’s concept of multilateralism, because one has to begin with China’s particularly humble experience with multilateral institutions e.g. it’s being kept out of the United Nations (UN) and its institutions during its preliminary decades as also for it is being the target of UN criticism and sanctions (for Korean War) during those years. The things were to begin to change following the Sino-US rapprochement and China’s entry into the UN and other multilateral institutions from the 1970s. Another crunch change to overlap with the late 1970s was the rise of Deng Xiaoping to power in China. Deng’s economic reforms and openness become the driving force behind China’s conclusive shift toward multilateral institutions.
According to Zhang Baijia, expert at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central School, numerous internal and external developments during the first half of the 1980s were to expressively influence Deng’s strategic thinking in three major ways: (a) Deng aborted the long-held view that world war is inevitable’ and instead stresses on ‘peace and development’ as central theme for China; (b) Deng acknowledged that the contemporary world is heterogeneous in nature and that conflicts coexist with cooperation and competition with interdependence; and (c) Deng maintained that independence does not equal isolation and self-reliance does not mean rejecting all foreign things as had been the case during Mao’s times. Change in Deng’s worldview was to result in the change in China’s approach towards international institution and towards the whole idea about multilateralism.
As a result, the whole of the 1980s witnessed extraordinary qualitative and quantitative changes as China gradually involved itself in not only international organizations in the political domain but also expanded its participation in economic and security types of multilateral forums. As regards China’s future vision on multilateralism, it has been motivated primarily by China’s felt need (a) for undermining the basis of United States’ unilateralism and its global power profile and (b) for making efforts to become acceptable as the benign rising power amongst its immediate neighbors and amongst the world at large. By far these two remain China’s most important foreign policy challenges through its rise as a major power has already been accepted as a given reality in general. The conditions have also been facilitated by external dynamics, especially following the collapse of former Soviet Union which has shifted the focus of international relations and led to the widening of the whole understanding of security and strategic calculations amongst major players therefore moving the dynamic of international power politics beyond two superpowers to include new actors like China.
Geneva Conventions mark 70 years of ‘limiting brutality’ during war
In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the landmark Geneva Conventions, the president of the United Nations Security Council hailed the “significant body of law”, describing it as playing “a vital role in limiting brutality of armed conflicts”.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the treaty, comprised of four Conventions and three Additional Protocols, established the modern, international legal standards for humanitarian treatment during times of war. They were agreed on 12 August 1949, and with some exceptions, ratified by 196 countries around the world.
“As they are ratified and acceded by almost every State of the world, the principles and legal norms enshrined in these Conventions are also recognized as customary international humanitarian law [IHL] and are universally applicable”, said Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, speaking for his nation which holds the Presidency of the Council for August. “This is a rare quality for any multilateral treaty”.
Among other things, the Conventions established protections for vulnerable groups in armed conflict, namely the wounded and sick; prisoners of war; and civilians, including civilians living under occupation.
Because Poland has been “painfully affected by consequences of other States’ failures to comply with international agreements” and in conjunction with its “sense of responsibility” to maintain international peace and security, Mr. Czaputowicz said that strengthening international law has always been important to his country.
“The greatest challenge to protecting human life in modem conflict is observance of and respect for the existing rules by the armed forces and non-State armed groups”, he asserted. “If existing rules were followed, much of the human suffering in contemporary armed conflicts would not occur”.
Poland’s top diplomat also pointed to new threats that demand practices and policy consistent with international humanitarian law.
“Artificial intelligence and autonomous weapon systems, such as military robots and cyber-weapons, reduce the role and control of human factors during wartime”, he continued. Moreover, the general rules of IHL prohibiting indiscriminate and inhumane weapons, “are being violated”.
Two IHL principles under the Geneva Conventions that deserve particular attention, according to Mr. Czaputowicz, are “the obligation to protect civilians, prisoners of war, the wounded and shipwrecked” as well as “limitations to the rights of parties to an armed conflict on how they conduct operations and on their choice of weapons”.
The increasing role of non-State actors and IHL legal loopholes are “the new reality of modem conflict”, he spelled out, bemoaning that they hinder international humanitarian law “in many ways”.
“International humanitarian principles are under pressure” and “the complexity of new challenges impedes the process of classification of conflict situations and makes it difficult to determine the exact rules that may be applied”, he elaborated.
‘Historic moment for humanity’
According to UN Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares, the four Conventions are “at the core” of IHL.
Noting that the first three conventions “were by no means completely novel at the time”, he singled out the Fourth Convention as being “the first treaty that was specifically dedicated to the protection of civilian persons in time of war”.
Mr. Soares also drew attention to Article 3, the provision on basic rules governing the humane treatment of people not involved in hostilities, including soldiers who have laid down their arms, those wounded or in detention, as well as civilians.
Calling the inclusion of Article 3 “a historic moment for humanity”, he said it was the first instance in which non-international armed conflicts were regulated by a multilateral treaty. The significance is augmented by the fact that the Geneva Conventions are now universally adhered to.
Conventions show ‘what is possible’
For his part, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), maintained that the Geneva Conventions represent “one of the greatest achievements of inter-State cooperation” and “symbolize our enduring and common humanity”.
“The Conventions show us what is possible when States take collective and individual action to uphold the law and humanitarian principles”, he said.
Noting that “every single day” international humanitarian law is at work saving lives and protecting women, men and children in conflicts, he highlighted that while “we rightly hear about the violations because the consequences are tragic and visible”, we must also “recognize the protective power and positive impacts when IHL is respected”.
The ICRC chief painted a picture of IHL in action, when the wounded and sick are evacuated to safety; the detained are treated with dignity; the fate of missing people is clarified; and humanitarian assistance is delivered across lines.
“The impacts of IHL are also shown through acts of restraint, when horrors are not inflicted – civilian areas are spared from direct shelling, medical workers are able to freely operate without threat or targeting”, he added.
Continued violations do not mean the law is inadequate, but rather that efforts to ensure respect are inadequate, he flagged, urging “we can – and must – do more”.
The world must not forget that “the Geneva Conventions represent a line of our common humanity, and they shield us from our own barbarity”, underscored Mr. Maurer.
Kerfuffle about Kashmir’s `special status’
It is eerie that Pakistan’s foreign office, media and politicians have shallow understanding of the Kashmir dispute. Let us not forget dimensions to the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan is committed to United Resolutions. These resolutions do not recognise `accession’ of disputed Kashmir under a resolution of the puppet Constituent Kashmir assembly or under Maharajah’s `instrument of accession’.
India never presented the accession `resolution’ or the `maharajah’s instrument’ before the UN. Yet, it claimed that the occupied Kashmir’s constituent assembly had voted for accession to India. As such, it is no longer necessary for her to let the promised plebiscite be held in Kashmir. Now, it has abrogated `special status’, hitherto quid pro quo. Has disputed Kashmir reverted to 1947 status in India’s own parlance?
In parliament, Amit Shah banked on the `instrument’ which is void. The Independence Act required intention of accession to be absolute and crystal-clear. But, a stray glance at the ‘Instrument’ would make it clear that it is equivocal. The ‘Instrument’ expresses ‘intention to set up an interim government and to ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities’ with maharajah’s prime minister. The last sentence in the ‘Instrument’ is ‘In haste and with kind regards’. Handwritten corrections on the text of the ‘Instrument’ speak volubly about the wavering state of the maharajah’s mind. Any `instrument’, extracted under coercion and duress, is invalid under law.
Subsequent accession resolution, passed by the occupied Kashmir’s ‘constituent assembly’, also, is void. This resolution violates the Security Council’s resolutions forbidding India from going ahead with the accession farce. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions to forestall the `foreseeable accession’ by the puppet assembly. Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.
`Accession instrument’ is a myth, unregistered with the UN. Alastair Lamb, in his book Incomplete Partition (Chapter VI: The accession Crisis, pp.149-151) points out that Mountbatten wanted India not to intervene militarily without first getting `instrument of accession’ from maharajah Hari Singh. Not doing so would amount to `intervening in the internal affairs of what was to all intents and purposes an independent State in the throes of civil conflict’. But, India did not heed his advice. It marched its troops into Kashmir without maharajah’s permission _ an act of aggression. Lamb says `timing of the alleged Instrument of Accession undoubtedly affected its legitimacy'(p.172, ibid). He adds `If in fact took place after the Indian intervention, then it could well be argued that it was either done under Indian duress or to regularise an Indian fait accompli’.
Lamb concludes (p. 191, ibid):`According to Wolpert, V. P. Menon returned to Delhi from Srinagar on the morning of 26 October with no signed Instrument of Accession. Only after the Indian troops had started landing at Srinagar airfield on the morning of 27 October did V. P. Menon and M. C. Mahajan set out from Delhi from Jammu. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharajah Sir Hari Singh after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital, Srinagar.
Lamb also regards the Instrument of Accession, ‘signed’ by the maharajah of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, as fraudulent (Kashmir – A disputed legacy 1846-1990). He argues that the maharajah was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947.
It is eerie to note that India has never shown the original Instrument’ in any international forum. India took the Kashmir issue to the UN in 1948 under article 35 of Chapter VI which outlines the means for a peaceful settlement of disputes.
Pakistan’s foreign office faux pas
Pakistan should not accept `special status’ as a fait accompli. Instead, it should focus on human-rights violations, and right of self-determination under UN conventions. While agitating these issues, Pakistan should avoid the legal wizard, a self-styled `international-law expert’, founder of a research society of international law, who selected Reqo Diq-fiasco incompetent legal team.
In his weekly press briefing, Pakistan foreign-office director general (South Asia and SAARC) Dr. Mohammad Faisal said (April 6, 2019), “Pakistan will never accept the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution… Besides violating the rights of Kashmiris, it will also contravene relevant UNSC (UN Security Council) Resolutions”. He added that Article 370 was incorporated in India’s Constitution in October 1949. And, it exempts Jammu and Kashmir from the country’s Constitution while allowing the state to draft its own [constitution]. Not so. Article 370 violates UN resolutions. Article 370 is rooted in accession-to-India resolution of so-called `constituent assembly’ of the disputed Kashmir. The `assembly’ itself banks on Maharajah Hari Singh’s mythical `Instrument of Accession’, not registered with the UNO. By accepting Article 370 and occupied Kashmir’s constitution, Pakistan binds itself to accepting Azad Kashmir as part of India. The IHK’s constitution provides seats for Azad Kashmir. Will Pakistan hold elections in Azad Kashmir under Indian or IHK’s constitution?
If our foreign office revisits Kashmir-case files, it will come to know that: (a) India never registered Instrument of Accession with the United Nations. In the summer of 1995, the Indian authorities reported the original document as lost or stolen? (b) Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions _ Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 _ to forestall the `foreseeable accession’ by the puppet assembly.. These resolutions outlaw accession or any other action to change status of the disputed state. (c) Pakistan stresses international-law jus cogen `pacta sunt servanda’ treaties are to be abided by, being binding on signatories. Non-compliance reduces a state to status of a rogue state. (d) India through a series of steps whittled down Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and 35-A of India’s Constitution. Governor replaced sadr-e-riast who could conveniently dismiss wazir-e-riast (now chief minister). (e) Kashmiri leaders are begging for `election’ which is ultra vires of UN resolutions. Kashmiris’ fate of total integration hangs in hands of petition pending with India’s Supreme Court.
Pakistan’s information minister’s statement
In a prelude to Foreign Office spokesman’s statement (April 6, 2019), Pakistan’s information minister had dared India hold elections in Indian-held Kashmir (March 11, 2019). Taking the two statements juxtaposed, the inference is that Pakistan implicitly admits that: (a) Jammu and Kashmir is not a disputed territory. It is an `integral part of India’. IHK had acceded to India as per the maharajah’s Instrument of Accession not registered with UNO or invoked on UN forums. (b) `Pakistan administered Kashmir’ (Azad Kashmir) is under illegal occupation by Pakistan. Heretofore I quote from IHK’s `Constitution’.
`Preamble to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR,having solemnly resolved, in pursuance of the accession of this State to India which took place on the twenty sixth day of October, 1947, to further define the existing relationship of the State with the Union of India as a part thereof…’.
`Relations with Government of India
Article 3 in part 2 of the Jammu and Kashmir constitution reads as,
“Relationship of the State with the Union of India:-The State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.
Relations with Pakistan administered Kashmir
Article 48 of Part VI of Jammu and Kashmir constitution defines Pakistan administered Kashmir as “Pakistan Occupied Territory”.
There are currently 87 seats in Jammu and Kashmir State assembly, but article 48 of Jammu and Kashmir constitution also recognizes 24 seats from Pakistan administered Kashmir and mentions that these 24 seats will remain vacant till Pakistan ceases the “occupation” of Kashmir and the said area shall be excluded in delimiting the territorial constituencies till that time.
To India’s pleasure, Pakistan’s chagrin
What information minister or foreign-office said should please India? For, India says clasula rebus sic stantibus, a fundamental change of circumstances (literally `things as they stand’), making plebiscite demand an anachronism.
Look at Janus-faced Pundit Jawaharlal Kaul/Nehru. Nehru had earlier declared in a radio broadcast (Nov 2, 1947) that the government of India was “prepared, when peace and order have been established in Kashmir, to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations.” I am quoting from Chaudhri Mohammad Ali’s The Emergence of Pakistan.
Nehru be-fooled Sheikh Abdullah to stab Pakistan in the back. Barkha Dutt recalls (This Unquiet Land, p. 154) `In a 1948 speech to the United Nations, Sheikh Abdullah … made a blistering defence of the accession to India. Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir) roared, :I had thought all along that the world had got rid of Hitlers…but what is happening in my poor country I am convinced that they have transmigrated their souls into Pakistan…I refuse to accept Pakistan as a party in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir’
Dutt says, “Sheikh Abdullah [later] began to talk about possibility of independent Kashmir…Soon after he changed his stance he was jailed and dismissed from office and was not able to lead the state for another twenty years’. Stanley Wolpert and Alastair Lamb (Kashmir – A disputed legacy 1846-1990, Birth of a Tragedy) also doubt existence of Instrument of Accession (October 26, 1947).
Pakistan’s foreign office has yet to produce a luminary of the caliber of Indian foreign secretaries Shiv Shankar Menon, Krishnan Srinivasan, JN Dixit and Jagat S. Mehta. These gentlemen knew that Kashmir was not an atoot ang (unbreakable part), but a disputed state. India and Parvez Musharraf partly implemented Mehta’s proposals. His proposals are contained in his article “Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s” Some points of his quasi-solution are: (a) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached. (b) Conversion of the LoC into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…” (c) Immediate demilitarization of the LoC to a depth of five to ten miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a “cold freeze”) for an agreed period. Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G Wirsing, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press, New York pp. 225-228). Mehta’s thinking is in line with JN Dixit’s. Dixit says ‘it is no use splitting legal hair. “Everybody who has a sense of history knows that legality only has relevance up to the threshold of transcending political realities. And especially in inter-state relations… so to quibble about points of law and hope that by proving a legal point you can reverse the process of history is living in a somewhat contrived utopia. It won’t work.”(Victoria Schofield’s book Kashmir in the Crossfire).
Does Pakistan’s Foreign Office abide by IHK and India’s constitutions? When shall Pakistan cease its `occupation of Azad Kashmir’ to hold elections on 24 seats reserved for Pakistan-administered Kashmir’? Certainly, the afore-quoted statements do not reflect Pakistan’s position on Kashmir dispute, based on UN resolutions. India has no mandate to change the status of the disputed state through sham elections, or sham `special status’. It is time Pakistan gagged its loose-cannon information minister, unbridled foreign-office, or politicians. It’s time for Pakistan about militarisation of Kashmir, human right violations and need for self-determination, recognised under UN conventions and resolutions.
Reserve judgment: Arbitrating energy disputes in Africa
As African states seek to use national laws to protect their natural resources and increase revenue from their development, Fieldfisher dispute resolution partner, Simon Sloane, considers the difficulties facing energy companies seeking to protect their investments while respecting the transformational needs of host states.
Africa’s capacity to benefit equitably from its own natural resources continues to be one of the main challenges facing many of its most energy-abundant jurisdictions.
While blaming this state of affairs on the old “resource curse” myth is simplistic and unhelpful, it remains the case that nations rich in resources tend to be poorer and less developed than those which are not, with many of the benefits of their exploitation going offshore.
Despite the clear moral case for African countries to profit more from their energy and mineral reserves, legally the picture is more complicated.
Much of the cost and risk of extracting these resources tends to be shouldered by foreign investors, who expect to be compensated for their outlays and assume that the terms on which they invested will be protected by local and international laws.
Consequently, any new domestic legislation guaranteeing host countries a “fair” share of the revenues from internationally funded projects is often treated as breaching protections given to foreign investors in bilateral investment treaties (BITs).
There have been numerous incidents of foreign companies successfully bringing arbitrations against African states that have tried to amend investment terms retrospectively, with investors relying on safeguards such as fair and equitable treatment (FET) and non-expropriation rights provided in BITs.
This has led to growing scepticism among African governments of (particularly first and second generation) BITs, as these treaties are often perceived as looking after the interests of foreign investors, to the detriment of states’ needs to transform their economies.
A handful of African countries, including South Africa and Tanzania, have recently cancelled a number of their BITs – a situation that has created tension between the desire to preserve domestic assets for the national benefit and the need to attract foreign investment to fuel economic growth.
Domestic legislation designed to promote equitable ownership include South Africa’s black economic empowerment initiatives, which compel 26% of shares in mining assets to be distributed to disadvantaged local people.
In Tanzania, new laws including the Natural Wealth and Resources Contracts (Review and Re-negotiation of Unconscionable Terms) Act, 2017 and the Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) Act, give the government power to renegotiate contracts with investors on terms more favourable to the state.
Although international arbitration is generally a last resort for resources companies when disputes arise, lately there has been a noticeable increase in requests for arbitration in circumstances where African states have sought to implement alternative local laws.
BIT terms and Western-centric legal principles rarely align with traditional African customary laws and there is a growing unwillingness in many African states to accept foreign rulings over key national assets, which can make the enforcement of an international arbitration award against a state politically challenging.
Since relatively few African court decisions are published, it is hard to tell statistically where many countries are in terms of compliance with international arbitration awards, and how many are resisting enforcement.
There have been some very public rejections of international arbitrators’ decisions.
Zimbabwe, for example, has resisted recent efforts to enforce awards made against it in US courts.
Nigerian courts have also refused the local enforcement of a multi-billion dollar London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA)commercial arbitration award against a state-owned entity in favour of foreign investors, notwithstanding that the English courts have upheld the validity of the award (see P&ID Ltd v Federal State of Nigeria).
Yet even in cases where the authority of international arbitrators is accepted, the variety and nature of local laws can cause problems when it comes to implementing awards in African states.
Growing distrust of the international arbitration system among African governments is a considerable problem for foreign investors, especially in the highly litigious energy sector, as there is currently no trusted alternative for resolving disputes.
Historically, arbitration has not been high on the agenda for most African states and relatively few African judges have significant experience of international arbitration.
Efforts are being made to redress this through legal education and there have been moves to establish regional arbitration centres throughout Africa that have the confidence of both states and investors, although these are yet to gain significant traction.
In the meantime, there continue to be serious problems in resolving energy project disputes caused by parallel proceedings, where one party will ignore an arbitration clause in a contract and ask for the matter to be addressed in a local court.
In these situations, partiesend up straddling one or more proceedings on the same issues, with different tribunals and courts regularly reaching different decisions and with the added hurdle of a party facing competing anti-suit or anti-arbitration injunctions.
Such circumstances are common where at least one partner is foreign and relies on an arbitration clause in a contract or its public international law rights under a BIT, while local parties are more naturally inclined to seek decisions from local judges.
Often, the impasse is caused by local judges who are suspicious of the international arbitration process and are not willing to abdicate their powers to a foreign tribunal .
In many cases, the need for arbitration can be avoided by careful and far-sighted approaches to contract negotiation.
Simply including an arbitration clause in a contract will not automatically prevent the parties ending up in messy disputes being contested simultaneously in domestic and international courts.
Energy projects especially will usually involve a complicated series of contracts between international energy companies and one or more domestic counterparts, including government bodies, local investors and contractors.
If a domestic party decides to ignore an arbitration clause and asks a local court to intervene, the foreign party then has to choose whether to seek an injunction and refer the dispute to arbitration, or submit to the local court’s jurisdiction.
In these situations, the international partner is likely to have difficulty locally enforcing any award they obtain, if they proceed with the arbitration.
Alternatively, the international party can opt to engage in the local court process which can expose them to the vagaries of an unfamiliar legal system.
Where there is a suite of contracts containing different arbitration clauses, this leaves the parties open to arguments about which arbitration clause governs which dispute and the possibility of multiple proceedings.
Habitually, there is a lack of attention given by lawyers drafting contracts to what are sometimes mandatory laws to protect natural resources.
Rules obliging infrastructure developers to use local contractors on large projects are also frequently ignored.
This failure to respect local laws can lead to litigation in local courts, especially as communities become more empowered to challenge this practice, over issues which should have been addressed at the drafting stage.
While not wholly avoidable, the risk of becoming embroiled in paralysing disagreements can be minimised by careful drafting and fully thinking through how proceedings will work in particular African jurisdictions.
Intra-African arbitration centres
One of the solutions being implemented to improve the perception of international arbitration in African disputes is the establishment of local arbitration centres.
In 2016 alone, there were more than 70 international arbitration centres operating across Africa,, with varying degrees of credibility, and more have sprung up since.
The Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, established in 1979, has been notably successful in attracting Arab and north-Saharan arbitrations.
In Nigeria, the Lagos Court of Arbitration is growing in stature, as are the Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC) in Rwanda and the Ghana Arbitration Centre.
The Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Centre (CIMAC) in Morocco and the Mauritius International Arbitration Centre (MIAC), which was previously an offshoot of the LCIA, are also actively seeking to play active roles in resolving African disputes.
China’s approach to arbitrating in Africa is also worth paying attention to. The China-Africa Joint Arbitration Centre (CJAC) in Shanghai was specifically set up to deal with infrastructure project disputes, and China is now looking to set up centres with broader mandates in East and West Africa.
The goal of all of these African centres is to regionalise arbitration, so that cases involving precious national assets are dealt with in Africa by African lawyers and arbitrators, with the buy-in of African governments and international investors.
However, until local courts are equipped to play a supportive role in arbitration, it may be hard for these centres to command confidence, especially when there are so many centres competing to hear arbitrations.
Transparency within the local court system also needs to improve, as where there is little or no access to court judgments, the worst assumptions are going to prevail.
International investors need to feel they can trust the integrity of local courts before they can be comfortable with their handling of cases.
The Paris-headquartered International Court of Arbitration (ICA) is pushing to improve the transparency of enforcement, on the grounds that it is important for tribunals and courts to know what other courts are doing, and for the rest of the world to see that key treaties are not being overturned and set aside.
The Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) is similarly seeking to facilitate a pro-arbitration stance in West Africa.
It is worth noting that suggestions around using institutionally appointed arbitrators, who have the advantage of proven expertise in the area they are arbitrating on, have generally received a cool reception by courts, states and investors.
The use of stabilisation clauses in contracts as a means for foreign investors to mitigate or manage political risks associated with their project is coming under scrutiny in Africa.
The World Bank and other multi-lateral development organisations favour the deployment of clauses that allow an investor to sue a state if the terms on which they invested change, as a way of increasing investment in Africa and developing economies in general.
But it is becoming increasingly evident that such clauses bind African governments and prevent them from amending local labour and environmental laws or their fiscal regimes, even if such reforms are deemed necessary to transform their societies and enhance domestic economies.
Although many African countries recognise that including stabilisation clauses in a BIT is likely to lead to expensive disputes that state balance sheets can ill afford, the need to attract foreign investment means that most governments are still willing to take the risk.
This is an area that multi-lateral organisations need to review, as it is clear that the current situation does not adequately serve the transformational needs of many African states.
New model treaties
Simultaneously with the growth of local arbitration centres, a raft of regional investment and co-operation agreements have sprung up to foster intra-African state and private investment from home-grown and international sources.
The majority of these agreements contain carve-outs expressly to enable African states to address their transformational needs, including exemptions for disenfranchised communities and the need to protect natural resources, without the fear of incurring liability to foreign investors.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), signed in Kigali in March 2018, is intended to provide a platform for intra-African investment between 27 African Union member states, both at state level and for private investors.
It is also hoped that the AfCFTA will go some way towards dealing with the perception that foreign investors have advantages over local partners under traditional BITs, and with some of the problems of enforcing courts’ decisions on disputes.
The New York Convention
One major benefit of international arbitration is the ease of enforcement in foreign jurisdictions which are signatories to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“the New York Convention”).
In sub-Saharan Africa, a region which comprises 46 of Africa’s 54 countries, many but not all jurisdictions have ratified the New York Convention.
The challenge now will be to ensure that the convention is properly implemented and respected by all signatories.
African governments are also closely following developments in Europe around the Investment Court System as an alternative to international arbitration, for resolving investor disputes in EU member states.
Non-governmental organisation Transparency International singles out the global oil and gas industry as one of the business sectors at the greatest risk of corruption, with Africa being a particular hot spot.
While there has been ample evidence of corrupt practices in some jurisdictions, observers should be cautious generalising about Africa, as many African countries are highly ranked as places to do business cleanly and legally.
Corruption is one of the issues at the heart of many governments’ dissatisfaction with the international arbitration system, as it smacks of injustice that an investor may be involved in illegal activity, by coercion or by choice, yet still win significant arbitration awards.
There have been a few advances in BITs and model laws that indicate international law is starting to get to grips with the issue.
The Dutch Model BIT published earlier this year allows tribunals to take into account whether there has been corruption when making an award – a development that has been largely welcomed and is likely to be replicated in other BITs around the world.
The Nigeria-Morocco BIT (the Reciprocal Investment Promotion and Investment Agreement) signed in late 2016, which contains a comprehensive anti-corruption provision, is also seen as one of the most progressive new formats of BIT.
The future of African energy disputes
Anyone considering making investments in Africa needs to be aware that there are a number of regional treaties to be complied with in order to benefit from investment protections.
There continue to be unresolved questions around enforcement mechanisms and what protections are enforceable through arbitration, especially as countries pull out of BITs.
For users or would-be users of the arbitration system, there are some difficult choices to be made for those who find themselves in the midst of several parallel proceedings.
While disputants may be convinced that they are legally right that arbitration is the way to resolve an issue, parties need to be very certain that there is some kind of enforcement option available to justify the time and expense involved.
Otherwise, disputes can turn into difficult procedural battles between arbitrators and local court proceedings, leading to spiralling costs and project delays, ultimately forcing parties to abandon the case.
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