Global Policy Forum

South Africa: Country to Host


By Themba Gadebe

April 18, 2007

South Africa is to establish and host the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) for Africa. The court will have a similar mandate to that of the International PCA in the Hague, in the Netherlands. This became a reality after Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the Secretary General of the PCA, Tjaco van den Hout Tuesday signed an agreement to this end. Minister Nkosazana Zuma said the facility was important to help African states settle their own disputes.

"It is an important establishment for the African Union and member states. As South Africa, we are very happy to have this facility that will serve the continent without going to The Hague," she said. Mr van Hout said having this facility in South Africa was a reflection of the country's support for the PCA. "I hope that we will be working together to settle disputes between states."

The facility, he explained, would assist states with fact finding missions, conciliation and arbitration through professional administration and expert guidance. Initially, the International PCA focused only on the settlement of inter-state disputes but has since extended its facilities to cases involving non-state parties. It can now assist in settling disputes between a state and a foreign investor. Mr van den Hout explained that it was common to see private energy enterprises engaged in disputes for scarce resources such as oil.

The PCA was established in 1899 in The Hague, as the first global institution to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes between states. South Africa became a member state of the PCA in 1997 by acceding to the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. The PCA has over the last decade experienced a considerable increase in caseload. It now involves investment and contract disputes, maritime delimitation, international boundaries, banking and finance, international humanitarian law as well as environmental law.

The establishment of a Regional Facility for Africa in South Africa is seen as a positive development. This will offer an alternative means to settle disputes, from those offered by judicial domestic and international courts, such as the International Court of Justice and the African Court of Justice. It is also more flexible and offers a greater degree of autonomy to the parties in dispute, as they have the freedom to choose the arbitrators, rules and procedures to be applied.

In another attempt to expand its services geographically, the PCA has opened a Regional Facility for the Promotion of Dispute Resolution through the mechanisms of the PCA in Costa Rica. This is to meet the demands of the Latin American region.

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