The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) published revised arbitration rules, replacing the1976 version with effect from 15 August 2010.

The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules follow four years of debate by the UNCITRAL working group. The signifi cant modifi cations to the new UNCITRAL Rules take account of the not uncommon complaint, voiced amongst users of international arbitration, that it is no longer the cheaper option, but is all too often an expensive alternative to court proceedings. Article 17 of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules originally gave very general powers to arbitrators to conduct proceedings as they saw fi t so long as they were fair. The new Article 17 exhorts arbitrators “to avoid unnecessary delay and expense”. The new Article 6 further provides the framework for parties to designate an appointing authority as soon as possible during the arbitration and makes provision for improving the procedure for challenging and replacing arbitrators. The delay in constituting a tribunal frequently leads to frustration and not infrequently to one party seeking the assistance of the court (see, for example, the very recent decision in Chalbury Mccouat International Limited v PG Foils Limited [2010] EWHC 2050, where the English court exercised its powers under Section 18 Arbitration Act 1996 authorising the President of the LCIA to appoint a sole arbitrator absent agreement between the parties in respect of an ad hoc arbitration).

In an increasingly litigious society, arbitrators themselves and the appointing institutions are more frequently becoming a target for claims. This has been addressed in part by Article 16, which effectively waives a party’s right to bring court proceedings against the Arbitral Tribunal, appointing authority or any person appointed by the Arbitral Tribunal for any act or omission in connection with the arbitration, unless they committed “intentional wrongdoing”.

Turning attention to another hot issue, namely, confl icts of interest, the new Rules include a model “Statement of Independence” which arbitrators are encouraged to sign prior to appointment.

The Rules are available in English and French at www.uncitral.org.