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Dr Natalia Chaeva

International Legal Counsel

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Consent to Arbitration

I. Definition


Consent is the cornerstone of jurisdiction of international courts and tribunals,1 including investor-State arbitration tribunals.2 3 Some investor-State tribunals set out consent as a condition of a so-called jurisdiction ratione voluntatis.4 


Consent must be clear and unequivocal,5 and the burden of establishing consent lies primarily with the Claimant.6 


In ICSID arbitration, written consent is to be given by a State party to the ICSID Convention and a national of a State party to the Convention for ICSID arbitration.7 


The United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards requires that consent be in writing for an arbitral award to be enforceable.8 

II. Basis of consent


Consent to arbitration may result from a direct agreement to bring before an arbitral tribunal either future disputes arising from the investment operation (compromissory clause)9 or an existing dispute (compromis), although the latter option is rare in investor-State arbitration.10 Most investment claims have been submitted on the basis of a host State’s general offer to arbitrate which may occur in the following ways:

  1. The host State may offer its consent to arbitration by way of its national legislation.11 Tribunals will consider whether the intention of the State to give its consent to arbitration is established.12
  2. The host State may also make a unilateral offer to arbitrate under an international treaty, either bilateral or multilateral,13 in respect to the investors that are nationals of other contracting State parties. 

When a foreign investor accepts the State’s offer to arbitrate through submission of an investment claim, by filing a notice of dispute,14 the arbitration agreement is perfectioned. 


Consent to arbitration is to be interpreted in good faith.15 Once perfected, consent becomes irrevocable.16 17 

III. Scope of consent


The scope of consent to arbitration is circumscribed by the host State’s offer and, in ICSID arbitration, by the jurisdiction of the Centre.18 19


The host State’s offer to arbitrate may be limited to certain types of disputes.

  1. Arbitration clauses may be quite broad as they refer to “all disputes concerning investments” or “any legal dispute concerning an investment”. In some treaty-based investor-State cases, such consent clauses have been considered as encompassing disputes that arise from a contract in connection with the investment,20 whereas in other cases the State’s consent has been considered to exist only over disputes which also constitute breaches of the applicable treaty21 (also see umbrella clause).
  2. Consent to arbitration may also be limited to disputes concerning expropriation or the amount of compensation for expropriation. In presence of such Arbitration clauses, investor-State tribunals may join the examination of expropriation to merits22 or use a prima facie expropriation case test to establish the State’s consent.23

Dispute resolution clauses indicate the available fora before which investment claims may be brought.

  1. Investor-State tribunals must satisfy themselves that they are constituted under the auspices of the same arbitral institution as indicated in the arbitration clause.24
  2. An arbitration claim may be precluded by a fork in the road clause if the investor has previously submitted the same claim before a domestic tribunal.25

IV. Procedural requirements before the State's consent


Arbitration clauses may subject the possibility for the investor to institute arbitration proceedings upon satisfaction of several preliminary procedural requirements, which are usually as follows: waiting periods for amicable settlement (cooling-off periods) or submission of the dispute to local courts in the host State within a certain period of time, often between six to eighteen months (also see exhaustion of local remedies).

  1. A number of investment tribunals have treated clauses regarding the attempt at amicable settlement clauses26 and local remedies rule27 as mandatory jurisdictional conditions pertaining to the State's consent to arbitration.
  2. Other tribunals have interpreted cooling-off period clauses as not being able to preclude their jurisdiction and have found that full compliance with such requirement would not have given a promising opportunity for a settlement.28
  3. Finally, other tribunals have considered that non-compliance with domestic remedies clauses does not lead to a lack of jurisdiction because such clauses relate to the admissibility of the claim.29 It has also been ruled that attempts to obtain effective redress from local courts would have been futile.30 

V. Investor's consent to counterclaims


Unless the applicable dispute resolution clause limits the access to arbitration to claims arising out of the host State’s obligations,31 the acceptance of the State’s offer to arbitrate by the investor does not exclude counterclaims.32


Amerasinghe, C.F., Jurisdiction ratione personae under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States, British Yearbook of International Law, 1975, pp. 227-267. 

Amerasinghe, C.F., Jurisdiction of International Tribunals, 2002.

Blanchard, S., State Consent, Temporal Jurisdiction, and the Importation of Continuing Circumstances Analysis into International Investment Arbitration, Washington University Global Studies Law Review, 2011, pp. 419-476.

Broches, A., The Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other States, Recueil des Cours de l’Académie de droit international (RCADI), 1972, pp. 331-410.

Douglas, Z., The International Law of Investment Claims, 2009.

Gaillard, E., L’arbitrage sur le Fondement des Traités de Protection des Investissements, Revue de l’arbitrage, 2003, pp. 853-875.

Fitzmaurice, Sir G., The Law and Procedure of the International Court of Justice, 1986.

Kahn, P., Les investissements internationaux, nouvelles donnes : un droit transnational de l’investissement, in Kahn, P., and Wälde, T. (eds.), New Aspects of International Investment Law/Les aspects nouveaux du droit des investissements internationaux 2004, 2007, pp. 3-41.

Kaufmann-Kohler, G., Interpretation of Treaties: How do Arbitral Tribunals Interpret Dispute Settlement Provisions Embodied in Investment Treaties?, in Mistelis, L.A., and Lew, J.D.M. (eds.), Pervasive Problems in International Arbitration, 2006, pp. 257-275.

Lamm, C.B., Jurisdiction of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, ICSID Review - Foreign Investment Law Journal, 1991, pp. 462-483.

Lalive, P., Some Objections to Jurisdiction in Investor-State Arbitration, in van den Berg, A.J. (ed.), International Commercial Arbitration: Important Contemporary Questions, 2003, pp. 376-391.

Leben, C., La théorie du contrat d’État et l’évolution du droit international des investissements, Recueil des cours - Académie de droit international, 2003, pp. 197-386.  

Paulsson, J., Arbitration Without Privity, ICSID Review - Foreign Investment Law Journal, 1995, pp. 232-257.

Paulsson, J., Jurisdiction and Admissibility, in Aksen, G., and Briner, R.(eds.), Global Reflections on International Law, Commerce and Dispute Resolution:  Liber Amicorum in honour of Robert Briner, 2005, pp. 601- 617.

Potestà, M., The Interpretation of Consent to ICSID Arbitration Contained in Domestic Investment Laws, Arbitration International, 2011, pp. 149-169.

Reuter, P., Réflexion sur la compétence du Centre créé par la Convention pour le règlement des différends relatifs aux investissements entre États et ressortissants d’autres États, in Investissements étrangers et arbitrage entre États et personnes privées, 1965, pp. 9-24.

Schreuer, C., Consent to Arbitration, in Muchlinski, P., and Others (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of International Investment Law, 2009, pp. 830-867.

Schreuer, C., and Others, The ICSID Convention: a Commentary, 2nd ed., 2009.

Stern, B., Le consentement à l’arbitrage CIRDI en matière d’investissement international : que disent les travaux préparatoires ?, in Mélanges, P.K, Souveraineté étatique et marchés internationaux à la fin du 20ème siècle, 2000, pp. 223-244.

Waibel, M., Investment Arbitration: Jurisdiction and Admissibility, The University of Cambridge Legal Studies Research Paper Series, 2014.

Witenberg, J.C., La recevabilité des réclamations devant les juridictions internationales, Recueil des cours - Académie de droit international, 1932, pp. 1-136.

Zeiler, G., Jurisdiction, competence, and admissibility of claims in ICSID arbitration proceedings, in Binder, C., and Others. (eds.), International Investment Law for the 21st Century: Essays in Honour of Christoph Schreuer, 2009, pp. 76-91.

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