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International Commercial Arbitration: Introduction

This guide covers both commercial arbitration as well as investment arbitration (Investor-State)


For researchers, the most frustrating aspect of arbitration is that awards and proceedings are usually confidential. In contrast to the transparency of litigation, documents relating to arbitration are not routinely published electronically or in paper. Because some arbitration awards do get published, however, you can’t assume these decisions are always unavailable. Unfortunately, researching this area of law can also be time-consuming and frustrating because there is no centralized source for obtaining all of the legal authorities needed.

Types of legal authorities used in international commercial arbitration:**

  • International treaties (both bilateral and multilateral)
    For example:
    • Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards ("New York Convention")
    • Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States ("ICSID Convention")
    • Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs)
  • National laws
    For example:
    • National arbitration statute in effect in the arbitration forum
    • UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration
    • National case law (persuasive authority)
  • Arbitral rules (international and regional arbitral institutions)
    For example:
    • UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules
    • Commercial Arbitration and Mediation Center for the Americas (CAMCA) Rules
  • Law of the dispute
    For example:
    • Arbitration agreement
    • Rules and orders of the arbitration tribunal
  • Arbitral awards (no precedential value and are not binding; persuasive authority)
  • Expert commentary (books and articles)

** Compiled from S.I. Strong, Research in International Commercial Arbitration: Special Skills, Special Sources, 29 Am. Rev. Int’l Arb. 119 (2009).

Quick Background Source

Max Planck Encyclopedias of International Law

  • arbitral awards
  • commercial arbitration
  • concessions
  • fair and equitable treatment
  • investment arbitration
  • investment disputes
  • investments, bilateral treaties
  • investments, international protection
  • private international law

This Encyclopedia is a good source for an overview of topics within international law (including private international law).  Provides information on the most important treaties and other documents. 

See also, International Litigation and Arbitration (2022).  This is a "concise hornbook" and provides a lot of background information. 

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