The top four international arbitration institutes by sheer volume of work are the ICC, LCIA, SCC and SIAC. These four institutions one can reasonably assume administer the vast majority of international commercial arbitrations. They have long served the international arbitration community well and international arbitration as the primary option for commercial cross border disputes have thrived under their collective stewardship. But might there not be room for a new participant in this valuable support system for businesses working in a global market that has opened up opportunities not only for the very large but also our many and varied small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)?
It has unfortunately been made trite by myriad political pundits that SMEs are the backbones of our economies. It is no less true for being over used as a political slogan. SMEs employ more people, create more opportunities, break chains and inspire creative solutions. They can be more responsive, more forward looking to the problems we collectively face and embrace principles on which capitalist systems are suppose to thrive – through competition, they lower prices and increase quality. Yet during the pandemic, many SMEs were hit the hardest. Despite their collective impact being far greater than many large companies for a society or an economy, there were few measures implemented to protect them. Despite the fact that the number of livelihoods that depend on SMEs far outweighs the number of livelihoods that depend on large corporations, it appears they are despite their collective size, not too big to fail. Where is their support?
International arbitration rules for the largest and most successful international arbitration institutes founded their rules of international arbitration at a time when only very large businesses were capable of doing cross border work. Today however even sole traders and the majority of SMEs do work cross border work in the provision of goods and services. If international arbitration was created as an alternative to submission by either party to the others jurisdiction, and instead opted for what was touted as faster, cheaper more flexible dispute resolution, what international arbitration rules have been created for SMEs?
There have been various modifications made to IA rules to cater for the needs of SMEs, but they are often add-ons to rules designed for a different era. However, Delos International Arbitration https://delosdr.org/ was founded for SMEs. Their rules provide clear, decisive remedies that recognise the costs and time of international arbitration can be prohibitive for SMEs who badly need access to justice and swift and affordable dispute resolution. With the opening of Delos’s Paris based international arbitration centre (https://delosdr.org/index.php/hearing-services/paris-hearings/) they continue to focus on providing quality dispute resolution services to SMEs and those cost conscious irrespective of the rules that govern their dispute. Hats off to Delos for embracing at their core access to justice and providing support for SMEs, who really are the backbones of our economies.
Author Iain Mckenny is the Co-Founder of Profile Investment leading a cross disciplinary team of 8 lawyers, quantum experts and enforcement specialists. Iain’s specialisms as a lawyer include international commercial and investment treaty arbitration across various sectors including construction, technology, finance and general commercial.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Iain via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.