Deputy Solicitor-General Catherine Evans, Director of the Pacific Region for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration Jim Armistead, and Director of Labour and Consumer Services Sandrina Thondoo all attended as public servants.
Private-sector participants were Julia Evans from the Cook Islands Business and Professional Women’s Association, and Erica Anderson and Fletcher Melvin, both from the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce.
International arbitration is a private dispute resolution mechanism that involves parties from different countries submitting their dispute to a neutral arbitrator or a panel of neutral arbitrators.
The arbitrators are then asked render a decision in the form of an arbitral award that is capable of enforcement in 157 countries under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the ‘New York Convention’).
Currently, a majority of South Pacific countries are not party to the New York Convention, with the exemption of the Cook Islands, Fiji and the Marshall Islands.
The South Pacific region is one of the last few regions in the world without an effective legal framework to resolve cross-border commercial disputes through international arbitration.
This form of cross-border dispute resolution and enforcement regime is fundamental to foreign investment and trade, as the absence of an international arbitration framework increases the risks and cost of doing business and stifles potential for economic growth.
International arbitration can also play a critical role in attracting more international climate finance and climate investments into the South Pacific region.
To raise awareness and discuss the positive impact of international arbitration reform in the South Pacific, the Fiji government – in conjunction with the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law – hosted the inaugural South Pacific International Arbitration Conference.
The conference was attended by key government officials, policy makers, development partners, judges, law practitioners and private-sector participants from the Pacific region, as well as other international speakers.