Insights from the recent World Chambers Congress: why comfort in neutral disputes mechanism is key to the role of international trade as a salve for a fractured world

As the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICCs) 13th World Chambers Congress (WCC) has now come to a close in Geneva, we reflect on the theme of ‘multilateralism key to achieving peace and prosperity for all’. Alexander Fessas, Secretary General of the ICC International Court of Arbitration (Court), emphasises the importance of independent, neutral and robust dispute resolution processes free from political bias to encourage cross-border trade.

Organised by the ICC, its World Chambers Federation and the local partner, the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services, the WCC is the largest and only international forum that enables chamber leaders and professionals to share best-practices, exchange insights, develop networks, address the latest business issues affecting their communities and learn about new areas of innovation from chambers around the world.

Speaking in the Court’s Centenary year, Mr Fessas said “The founding principles of both the ICC and its International Court of Arbitration when they were set up over 100 years ago were to foster peace and prosperity among nations by encouraging positive trading in the wake of World War 1.  Today, the international business needs more encouragement and support than ever before: we are recovering from a global pandemic, at the same time as dealing with unprecedented economic stresses the world over, fractious relationships globally, especially the war in Ukraine, and the worrying trend of rising nationalism and protectionism. The international order is being shaken again. Opposition to international trade can be intense and businesses trading across borders can receive a hostile reception.  The WCC’s focus on multiteralism as a way through is indeed timely”.

“We have always believed that a robust global trading system and economic growth improves stability, creates development opportunities for millions of citizens and supports peaceful international relations. And an independent and neutral means of resolving disputes is key to businesses having the confidence to do this trade and investment in foreign territories.”

The ICC plays an important role as a Permanent Observer to the United Nations and the voice of international business, in large part because of the work of its Court. Held every two years in a different region of the world, its WCC provides unparalleled opportunities to connect and strengthen relations with a diverse and international group of individuals representing more than 100 countries.  The gathering of 1,500 economic players, business leaders and decision-makers from around the world will focus on the role of business and chambers of commerce in revitalizing multilateralism for a more sustainable and prosperous future.  It is a valuable and dynamic forum facilitating the exchange of real-world ideas and best practices on both chamber and business activities, and it has been growing ever since its launch in 1999.

Spread across three days, the Congress programme covered topics under three broad headings – ‘Demystifying multilateralism’, ‘Innovation by all and for all’ and ‘Future-proof sustainability’.