THE PRACTICE OF INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION IN A POST-COVID-19 PANDEMIC ERA:

OVERCOMING POTENTIAL GLITCHES

By Ibifubara Berenibara and Chizaram Uzodinma


Introduction

The threat occasioned by the advent of Covid-19 and its rapid spread across the world presented unprecedented challenges to human lives and businesses globally. It hampered dispute resolution proceedings and particularly affected international arbitration. The initial reaction from the arbitration community, occasioned by the series of lockdowns, was to wait for the fog of uncertainty to clear. Therefore, arbitral hearings and filing deadlines were suspended until further notice. However, as the pandemic persisted with the attendant global increase in infections and death, doubts that the status quo would soon be restored concretized. Accordingly, arbitration users were forced to mechanize a way that was later characterized as “the new normal”, leveraging on technology to create experiences close enough to the traditional arbitration practice.

About a year after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 11 March 2020, hope glittered with the certification of certain Covid-19 vaccines, and the positive results deducible from the use of facemasks and the practice of social distancing. With the vaccines, it appears that countries are gearing toward reopening their economies and relax the restraint on social distancing, that has invariably inhibited gathering in any defined location for international arbitral proceedings. Would the guidelines issued before the peak of the pandemic by arbitration institutions be carried forward into the post-pandemic future, more so with the Covid-19 vaccination that now acts as the game-changer?


In this paper, we will briefly highlight the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on international arbitration, and address some of the emerging trends in light of global vaccination requirements and its impact on future arbitration practice.


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