With support from Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Department of International Law of the Organization of American States (OAS) has launched a new website in English and Spanish about the enforceability of international commercial arbitration awards in Latin America: http://www.oas.org/en/sla/dil/international_commercial_arbitration.asp.

The objective of this project is, according to the website, “to strengthen judges’ and public officials’ knowledge and proper application of internationally recognized norms on commercial arbitration throughout the region, particularly with regard to cross-border international commercial arbitral decision enforcement.” With this website OAS has joined other similar initiatives with broader scopes of attention.[1]

This new website contains links to the texts and statuses of international commercial arbitration conventions applicable in Latin American countries and relevant sections of free trade agreements, as well as links to arbitral institutions, selected bibliography on arbitration and, what is the key of this project, national laws and jurisprudence catalogs. So far, OAS has included case law on enforcement of foreign awards in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

It is of interest that OAS has focused on arbitration as we cannot forget that Latin America has had a peculiar relationship with international commercial arbitration (leaving investment arbitration apart, which could be the subject of a full doctoral dissertation).

On the one hand, arbitration was often seen with reluctance by many Latin American countries until very recent dates. For example, Brazil, the great regional power, acceded to the New York Convention only in 2002.[2]

On the other hand, Latin American countries have adopted, under the auspices of OAS, two conventions on arbitration: the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, done at Panama City on 30 January 1975,[3] and the Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards, done at Montevideo on 8 May 1979.[4] This circumstance created obvious problems of overlapping with the New York Convention, to which some Latin American countries are also parties.[5] The OAS has taken it into account by including useful documents to compare the three conventions.[6]

To sum up, we find this tool useful for practitioners, academics and all those interested in the field of international arbitration. We hereby encourage OAS to add more case law to this website as well as comments to those judicial decisions.  

[1] See, for example, the initiative New York Convention 1958 sponsored by Shearman & Sterling LLP, Columbia Law School and UNCITRAL at http://www.newyorkconvention1958.org/; in addition, see UNCITRAL’s website at http://www.uncitral.org/clout/searchDocument.do?d-8032343-p=1&d-8032343-o=1&lng=en&textType=322&d-8032343-s=1.

[5] The United States of America was prompted to make a reservation at the time of ratifying the Panama Convention in order to tackle potential conflicts between the New York and the Panama Conventions. See http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/sigs/b-35.html.