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Justice Hima Kohli calls for ensuring Gender Diversity in International Arbitration


In the world of international arbitration, diversity is not merely a buzzword but a crucial factor that impacts the fairness and inclusivity of dispute resolution. Supreme Court judge Justice Hima Kohli recently highlighted the pressing issue of gender diversity among international arbitrators during the 'International Arbitration Day' event organized by The International Arbitration & Mediation Centre, Hyderabad, in collaboration with law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. In this blog, we delve into Justice Kohli's remarks and the imperative need to promote gender diversity in the realm of international arbitration.


The Gender Disparity in International Arbitration


Justice Kohli began her address by shedding light on a report by the Cross-Institutional Task Force on Gender Diversity in Arbitral Appointments and Proceedings. The report, a stark revelation, revealed that before the year 2015, women were underrepresented to an alarming degree among arbitrators. In a population of 145 investment treaty arbitrators, a mere five women accounted for a paltry 3.5%. What's more, there were no tribunals composed entirely of two or more women.


However, Justice Kohli also emphasized that there has been notable progress in recent years. Between 2015 and 2021, the percentage of women appointed as arbitrators nearly doubled, soaring from 12.6% to 26.1%. Much of the credit for this positive shift goes to arbitration institutions that have actively contributed to driving this trend. Between 2015 and 2020, at least a quarter of all appointments made by arbitration institutions were women, significantly increasing their share from 24.9% in 2015 to 37.9% in 2021. Furthermore, the percentage of women appointed as co-arbitrators nearly tripled, rising from 10.1% in 2015 to 27.1% in 2021.


Strategies to Promote Gender Diversity


Justice Kohli asserted that while progress has been made, there remains a significant need to further promote gender diversity in the field of arbitration. She suggested several strategies to achieve this goal:

  • Education and Training: Enhancing education and training opportunities for women and representatives of other underrepresented groups through scholarships is an effective way to encourage their participation in arbitration. These programs can equip aspiring arbitrators with the necessary skills and knowledge.

  • Revising Institutional Arbitration Rules: Justice Kohli highlighted the importance of revising institutional arbitration rules to make the appointment of diverse arbitrators, especially women, a standard practice in the selection process. This step can help institutionalize diversity and inclusion.

  • Awareness and Outreach: Increasing awareness activities, such as seminars, conferences, and workshops, is essential. These initiatives can educate all stakeholders in international and domestic arbitration, including parties, general counsel, litigation lawyers, and arbitrators, about the significance of gender diversity and the benefits it brings to the field.

  • Collaborative Efforts: Arbitral institutions, legal professionals, and the wider arbitration community must collaborate to develop systematic and collaborative strategies. By working together, they can drive meaningful change and create an environment where diversity is not an exception but the norm.

The Path Forward


Justice Hima Kohli's call to action on gender diversity in international arbitration resonates as a critical step toward creating a more equitable and inclusive dispute resolution landscape. Achieving gender diversity not only strengthens the credibility of arbitration but also enhances the quality and fairness of the process.


In the years ahead, it is imperative that stakeholders in the field of arbitration continue to prioritize diversity and actively implement the strategies outlined by Justice Kohli. By doing so, the arbitration community can foster a more representative and balanced future, where every qualified individual, regardless of gender, has an equal opportunity to contribute to the resolution of international disputes.


Justice Hima Kohli's remarks on gender diversity in international arbitration serve as a reminder that diversity and inclusivity are essential principles that should be upheld in all facets of the legal profession. The progress made in recent years is commendable, but there is still work to be done. With concerted efforts and a commitment to change, the arbitration community can create a more equitable and just environment for all, where the voices and perspectives of women are fully represented and valued in the resolution of international disputes.


 

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