Department of Justice backs Hong Kong’s largest international arbitration event ever

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The 26th International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) Congress, held in Hong Kong from May 5 to May 8, brought together over 1,400 legal and dispute resolution practitioners from more than 70 jurisdictions around the world, marking the highest attendance in its history. 

Supported by the Hong Kong Department of Justice (DoJ) and hosted by the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), this global event showcased Hong Kong’s role as a leading destination for international arbitration, fostered insightful discussions on the human dimension of dispute resolution and paved the way for innovation. 

At the opening ceremony, Paul Lam, Secretary for Justice, delivered a welcome speech emphasising the significance of Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ principle, which uniquely positions Hong Kong as the only common law jurisdiction within the country. 

He also highlighted Hong Kong’s strengths in dispute resolution, noting the role of the HKIAC in hosting the 26th ICCA Congress, reinforcing Hong Kong’s global appeal as an international arbitration hub. 

Lam further discussed the supportive legal infrastructure that facilitates arbitration, positioning Hong Kong as a preferred venue for resolving international legal disputes. 

“The legal services provided by Hong Kong would enable overseas investors and businessmen to explore investment and business opportunities in the Mainland, while having the option of protecting their interests through Hong Kong’s common law system, which is trusted and familiar to the international community,” he said. 

Paul Lam, Secretary for Justice, speaks at the opening ceremony, highlighting Hong Kong’s unique legal system and its global role as a leading arbitration centre.

Joanne Lau, Secretary General of the HKIAC, expressed her enthusiasm: “Hosting over 1,400 participants from more than 70 jurisdictions around the world is truly exhilarating. Hong Kong’s dynamic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual attributes make it an ideal setting for such a global gathering.” 

“This event is a prime opportunity for arbitration reform and innovation in Hong Kong. It’s the largest in-person professional gathering since the pandemic,” said Neil Kaplan, Co-Chair of ICCA Host Committe. 

“The strengthening business ties between Hong Kong and Mainland China are fostering legal innovations that are enhancing Hong Kong’s ability to handle arbitrations involving the Mainland,” Kaplan added.

The opening ceremony brought together industry and government leaders dedicated to enhancing justice and the efficiency of dispute resolution.
The cocktail reception ‘Leveraging Legal Strengths for Business Growth’ was co-hosted by the Department of Justice and Invest Hong Kong, with the support of The Law Society of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Bar Association.

The human touch: exploring the essence of international arbitration 

The theme of this year’s ICCA Congress, ‘International Arbitration: A Human Endeavour’, set the stage for an in-depth exploration of the human elements that underpin the arbitration process. 

Throughout the mega-event, lively panel discussions and seminars explored a range of arbitration issues, from bias in decision-making to the social, cultural and religious factors at play, as well as the potential use of artificial intelligence (AI) in arbitration. 

During a panel discussion on decision-making and its foundations, experts delved into the complexities of decision- making in international arbitration by examining the nuances of how arbitrators approach their decisions compared to judges. 

Another panel discussed the impact of sociology and education on the structure and participants in international arbitration. 

The science of the human brain provides valuable insights into how persuasion works for advocates. In a panel discussion, speakers shared their perspectives on how human qualities such as creativity and fallibility can influence and motivate advocates. 

The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, otherwise known as the New York Convention, is considered the most important instrument in international commercial arbitration. Hong Kong is also a signatory to the New York Convention, with awards enforceable in over 170 contracting parties. 

A panel discussion examined how courts interpret and apply the New York Convention and the role of judges and practitioners in this process. Specifically, this panel addressed issues of consistency, public policy, arbitrability and local legal cultures, as well as the key visionaries who have shaped the New York Convention. 

The advent of AI is set to transform the legal profession, and arbitration is no exception. A panel discussion entitled ‘International Arbitration: An AI Endeavour’, chaired by Michael McIlwrath, explored how AI could influence arbitration practice and potentially modify conventional methods. 

One of the most anticipated sessions was Professor Bryant Garth’s keynote address on ‘Unveiling the Human Dimensions of International Arbitration: Dealing with Virtue Then and Now’. His exploration of historical and ethical perspectives provided a deeper understanding of the challenges and responsibilities facing today’s arbitrators. 

The Young ICCA-HK 45 Skills Training Workshop, led by Dr Claudia Winkler of The Negotiation Academy, provided a practical conclusion to the ICCA Congress. The workshop explored the psychological aspects of negotiation, including interest-based negotiation, game theory and unconscious bias.

Networking side events 

In addition to the panel discussions and seminars, more than 50 side events, ranging from thematic sessions to cocktail receptions, were held alongside the main conference, providing further opportunities for participants to network with the local legal and dispute resolution community in different settings. 

Alongside these side events, the DoJ hosted two activities in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The cocktail reception titled ‘Leveraging Legal Strengths for Business Growth’, co-hosted with Invest Hong Kong, provided a platform for over 200 ICCA international participants to meet with Hong Kong’s business and legal communities. 

Held on May 9, the ICCA 2024 Hong Kong Shenzhen Side Events, co-organised by the DoJ, is the only side event held outside of Hong Kong. It served as a crucial platform for the exchange of ideas and developments in international arbitration, particularly focusing on the evolving dynamics between Hong Kong and Mainland China. 

DoJ’s support elevates Hong Kong’s status in global arbitration 

“As one of the supporting organisations, the Department of Justice not only provided substantial financial support, but also actively promoted the event to encourage wider participation,” said Secretary for Justice Lam. 

“Given that this Congress is regarded as the Olympics of international commercial arbitration, we are confident that our involvement will significantly enhance Hong Kong’s status as a leading international centre for legal services and dispute resolution.” 

This support for the ICCA Congress demonstrates the DoJ’s strategic efforts to enhance Hong Kong’s reputation as a trusted and neutral international arbitration centre. 

Underscoring this ambition, a survey conducted by Queen Mary University of London and White & Case in 2021 ranked Hong Kong as the third most preferred seat for arbitration in the world. 

This prestigious ranking reflects the strength of Hong Kong’s legal infrastructure and the high level of trust it commands in the international legal community. 

As the curtain fell on this year’s ICCA Congress, the international arbitration community was left enriched and inspired, carrying forward the insights and connections forged in Hong Kong before reuniting again in Madrid in 2026. 

The ICCA 2024 Shenzhen Side Events is a convergence of legal minds from Hong Kong and Mainland China, discussing new arbitration practices and technological advancements.

For more information on upcoming Hong Kong’s legal and dispute resolution events, please



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