19 April 2007
South Africa is to set up and host the Permanent Court of Arbitration for Africa, a branch of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, to help resolve inter-state and non-state disputes on the continent.
This follows an agreement signed on Tuesday between Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Tjaco van den Hout, secretary-general of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
The African PCA’s mandate will mirror that of the international PCA, which was established in 1899 as the first global institution to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes between countries.
South Africa became a member of the PCA when it signed the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes in 1997.
Van den Hout said having the facility in South Africa was a reflection of the country’s support for the PCA. “I hope that we will be working together to settle disputes between states,” he said.
The establishment of a regional facility for Africa will offer an alternative means of settling disputes from those offered by bodies such as the African Court of Justice and the International Court of Justice.
The African PCA will also be more flexible and offer a greater degree of autonomy to the parties in dispute, as they will have the freedom to choose the arbitrators, rules and procedures to be applied in each case.
Van den Hout said the facility would help countries with fact-finding missions, conciliation and arbitration through professional administration and expert guidance.
After an initial focus only on inter-state disputes, the International PCA now also assists in disputes between countries and foreign investors. Van den Hout said it was now common to see private companies in dispute with countries for scarce resources such as oil.
The PCA has, over the last decade, experienced a considerable increase in its caseload, which now includes disputes over investments and contracts, maritime delimitation, international boundaries, banking and finance, international humanitarian law and environmental law.
The PCA has also opened a regional facility in Costa Rica to service the Latin American region.