CIArb’s Immediate Past President’s reflections on 2021

Ciarb's Immediate Past President Ann Ryan Robertson

Ann Ryan Robertson reflects on a rewarding year as President of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, 2021.

As a society, we have learned much in 2021. Although sometimes cantankerous, we can withstand the persistent battering of wave after wave of COVID. The Greek alphabet has letters extending far beyond the initial “alpha.” “You’re on mute” will continue to be an often-repeated phrase. And, the transformative power of the Internet is, and will remain, an integral part of our lives.

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) has adapted to the pandemic-imposed restrictions and has found opportunity in adversity.

Despite the curtailment of physical travel and gatherings, the Internet’s global reach has allowed the CIArb to meet its strategic aims of promoting the constructive resolution of disputes, of being a global inclusive thought leader and of developing and supporting an inclusive global community of diverse dispute resolvers.

The CIArb’s events, courses and other activities have reached an unprecedented number of people from around the world. This past year, the Institute and the Branches deployed, via the Internet, courses focusing on all aspects of dispute resolution, with 4841 people having taken CIArb training. We reached the milestone of over 17,000 members worldwide, plus a student membership of over 10,000, evidencing society’s continued hunger for a means of resolving disputes other than by the courts.

The CIArb was an observer at the UNCITRAL Working Groups focusing on Investor-State Dispute Settlement and Expedited Arbitration, two extremely important issues to the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) community. Our intervention, relaying the Institute’s experience concerning expedited procedures, was especially welcome by the committee. Collaboration within the ADR community continued with the execution of a number of memoranda of understanding and joint programs with ADR organizations and arbitral institutions. It was my pleasure to participate in two fireside chats with the President of the ICC Court of Arbitration where we shared the visions and aspirations of our respective organizations.

The Institute also acknowledged the role it must play in addressing the specter of climate change and the need for sustainability. Both the Alexander Lecture, “International Arbitration and Sustainable Investment: Facilitator or Foe,” delivered by Wendy Miles QC and the theme of this year’s DAS Convention, “Catalyst for Change: How ADR can Facilitate the Global Sustainability Transition,” explored the deep and complex links between our profession and the monumental changes society must make in order to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate climate change. This important topic will continue to be in the forefront of the CIArb’s activities in the coming years.

Moreover, this past year, the Institute not only celebrated diversity and inclusion but also enhanced its commitment to this important initiative. From honoring women at the CIArb International Women's Day 2021 to the inauguration of the CIArb Mentoring Scheme designed to assist aspiring practitioners with less access to networks of promotion and support to the Members Insight Panel designed to foster diversity of thought, the CIArb embraced being an inclusive global community of diverse dispute resolvers. Further evidence of its commitment to diversity and inclusion is the Institute’s new “Policy Statement for EDI,” reiterating the Institute’s pledge to embed inclusivity across all its operations.

But, the progress the CIArb has enjoyed this year would not have been possible without the involvement and support of you - our members. The local programs the Branches have hosted, your attendance at webinars and training, and your active participation on committees have all contributed to and strengthened the CIArb’s presence on the world stage – thank you.

It has been an honor and a privilege to be the President of the CIArb this past year. I have travelled over 300,000 virtual miles. My first speech was “in” Mexico, my last “in” Vietnam and in between I have “visited” Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Austria, Kuala Lumpur, Kenya, Bahamas, Jamaica, Peru, Argentina, England and Brazil. I have made speeches, delivered “welcomes,” participated on panels and judged the final rounds of two international moots, all from Houston, Texas. As travel restrictions eased, I was able to travel to Dubai for Dubai Arbitration Week and to Miami for ICC Miami where for the first time I was able to meet in person many of the members who I had met virtually over the past year. My Presidential year is certainly not the year anyone envisioned when I was elected in 2018, but through the power of the Internet I have been able to experience innumerable touchpoints with members and non-members alike – the silver lining in the proverbial dark cloud. It has been a rewarding year for me personally and a robust year for the CIArb. I am grateful to all who made it possible.

It is now time for me to hand over the mantle of the Presidency to my successor and friend, Jane Gunn. This handover marks the first time in the history of the CIArb that there have been back-to-back female Presidents, an event we should all applaud. I have every confidence that Jane’s vision and her demonstrated ability to work with the central leadership and membership will enable the Institute to continue to advance as the world’s leading qualifications and professional body for dispute avoidance and dispute management. I wish Jane a fulfilling and exciting Presidential year. It is, in the words of T.S. Eliot, time for a new “voice.”

Ann Ryan Robertson C.Arb FCIArb

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” “. . . next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."