October 24, 1997, Geneva, Switzerland
by Dr. Kamil Idris
World Intellectual Property Organization
Mr. Michael Hoellering, President of the International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions (IFCAI);Dr. Pierre Karrer, President, Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA); Distinguished Guests;
On behalf of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this Biennial Conference of the International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions. It is a distinct privilege and honor for WIPO to have been selected to host this Conference. WIPO is indeed delighted that so many prominent professionals and important representatives of dispute resolution institutions from countries spanning the globe have joined us here today to participate in this event.
Last month, the General Assembly of WIPO bestowed upon me a great honor, and a correspondingly heavy responsibility, by appointing me Director General of this Organization, for which I will take up my formal duties in December of this year. In my acceptance speech, I expressed the view that WIPO, as an independent and specialized organization within the United Nations family of organizations, has a uniquely dual character as both an intergovernmental organization which serves the international community of States, and a global, market-oriented organization which serves the interests and needs of a large, dynamic and growing body of users who are concerned about the creation, valorization and protection of intellectual property rights in an increasingly internationalized marketplace.
It is particularly in its capacity as a global, market-oriented organization that WIPO strongly endorses the increasing importance of arbitration, as well as mediation, as dispute-resolution mechanisms that promote stable international commercial relations. As you know, just over 20 years ago, in 1976, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution adopting the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, expressly recognized "the value of arbitration as a method of settling disputes arising in the context of international commercial relations." In an age in which commercial transactions, which now increasingly will include electronic commerce, routinely cross national boundaries, this recognition takes on new dimensions and value.
This recognition of the role of arbitration was not the first involvement of the United Nations in arbitration. Going back to 1958, the United Nations Economic and Social Council convened the Conference on International Commercial Arbitration which, again as you already know, led to the adoption of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. This treaty, the New York Convention of 1958, is recognized as the cornerstone of modern commercial arbitration.
WIPO also strongly endorses institutionally supported mediation and arbitration, which, as compared with ad hoc mechanisms, facilitate the dispute-resolution process from beginning to end by providing assistance from professional staff, reducing the risk of procedural or technical defects. At the same time, as the theme of this Conference suggests, dispute-resolution institutions must become ever more conscious of the needs and preferences of the users that they serve.
Lawyers and business persons around the world are increasingly aware of the benefits of mediation and arbitration, causing increased involvement of and demand from arbitral institutions. This growth enhances the role and importance of IFCAI.
As one of those members, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center finds itself in prominent company. WIPO therefore considers it an honor that its Arbitration and Mediation Center has been given the opportunity to host this important Conference.
In organizing this event, WIPO has the pleasure of working with Mr. Hoellering, as well as with the Swiss Arbitration Association. The presence of many of its members today, and the considerable contributions which its Honorary President, Dr. Blessing, has made and continues to make to the WIPO Center, are testimony to this tradition of collaboration.
This Conference will benefit from a series of most distinguished chairmen and speakers, who will be addressing "the institutional response to changing needs of users." Indeed, for all of us, market orientation is a particularly appropriate theme in these times, where technological advances and trade liberalization are internationalizing the economy and, with it, the law. As a truly multi-jurisdictional mechanism, arbitration is uniquely placed to serve this trend. Moreover, aside from the complexity of international litigation, the speed of the changes places a new premium, and new demands, on dispute-resolution institutions to offer an alternative, neutral, expeditious and cost-effective forum for resolving international commercial disputes.
I wish you all an excellent and successful Conference!