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The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an institution of the World Bank Group based in Washington, D.C., was established in 1966 pursuant to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (the ICSID Convention or Washington Convention). As of May 2005, 155 countries had signed the ICSID Convention.
ICSID has an Administrative Council, chaired by the World Bank's President, and a Secretariat. It provides facilities for the conciliation and arbitration of investment disputes between member countries and individual investors.
During the first decade of the 21st century, with the proliferation of bilateral investment treaties (BITs), most of which refer present and future investment disputes to the ICSID, the caseload of the ICSID substantially increased. As of March 30, 2007, ICSID had registered 263 cases more than 30 of which were pending against Argentina– Argentina's economic crisis in the late 1990s and subsequent Argentine government measures led several foreign investors to file cases against Argentina. Nicaragua and Venezuela have announced their intention to withdraw from the ICSID.
On a number of occasions in the past, the World Bank as an institution and the President of the Bank in his personal capacity have assisted in mediation or conciliation of investment disputes between governments and private foreign investors. The creation of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 1966 was in part intended to relieve the President and the staff of the burden of becoming involved in such disputes. But the Bank's overriding consideration in creating ICSID was the belief that an institution specially designed to facilitate the settlement of investment disputes between governments and foreign investors could help to promote increased flows of international investment.
ICSID was established under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States which came into force on October 14, 1966. ICSID has an Administrative Council and a Secretariat. The Administrative Council is chaired by the World Bank's President and consists of one representative of each State which has ratified the Convention. Annual meetings of the Council are held in conjunction with the joint Bank/Fund annual meetings.
ICSID is an autonomous international organization. However, it has close links with the World Bank. All of ICSID's members are also members of the Bank. Unless a government makes a contrary designation, its Governor for the Bank sits ex officio on ICSID's Administrative Council. The expenses of the ICSID Secretariat are financed out of the Bank's budget, although the costs of individual proceedings are borne by the parties involved.
Other non-members are: Brazil, Mexico, Suriname, Qatar, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, South Africa, Eritrea, Djibouti, Libya, Iraq, Iran, San Marino, Montenegro, Poland, Tajikistan, India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Laos, Vietnam, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Maldives, Cuba, North Korea, Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Nauru, Cook Islands, Niue, Vatican City and the rest of states with limited recognition.
Pursuant to the Convention, ICSID provides facilities for the conciliation and arbitration of disputes between member countries and investors who qualify as nationals of other member countries. Recourse to ICSID conciliation and arbitration is entirely voluntary. However, once the parties have consented to arbitration under the ICSID Convention, neither can unilaterally withdraw its consent. Moreover, all ICSID Contracting States, whether or not parties to the dispute, are required by the Convention to recognize and enforce ICSID arbitral awards.
Besides this original role, the Centre has since 1978 had a set of Additional Facility Rules authorizing the ICSID Secretariat to administer certain types of proceedings between States and foreign nationals which fall outside the scope of the Convention. These include conciliation and arbitration proceedings where either the State party or the home State of the foreign national is not a member of ICSID. Additional Facility conciliation and arbitration are also available for cases where the dispute is not an investment dispute provided it relates to a transaction which has "features that distinguishes it from an ordinary commercial transaction." The Additional Facility Rules further allow ICSID to administer a type of proceedings not provided for in the Convention, namely fact-finding proceedings to which any State and foreign national may have recourse if they wish to institute an inquiry "to examine and report on facts."
A third activity of ICSID in the field of the settlement of disputes has consisted in the Secretary-General of ICSID accepting to act as the appointing authority of arbitrators for ad hoc (i.e., non-institutional) arbitration proceedings. This is most commonly done in the context of arrangements for arbitration under the Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), which are specially designed for ad hoc proceedings.
Provisions on ICSID arbitration are commonly found in investment contracts between governments of member countries and investors from other member countries. Advance consents by governments to submit investment disputes to ICSID arbitration can also be found in about twenty investment laws and in over 900 bilateral investment treaties. Arbitration under the auspices of ICSID is similarly one of the main mechanisms for the settlement of investment disputes under four recent multilateral trade and investment treaties (the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Energy Charter Treaty, the Cartagena Free Trade Agreement and the Colonia Investment Protocol of Mercosur).
In addition to these activities, ICSID also carries on advisory and research activities, publishing Investment Laws of the World and of Investment Treaties, and collaborates with other World Bank Group units. Since April 1986, the Centre has published a semi-annual law journal entitled ICSID Review: Foreign Investment Law Journal.
ICSID proceedings do not necessarily take place in Washington, D.C. Other possible locations include the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the Regional Arbitration Centres of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee at Cairo and Kuala Lumpur, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration at Melbourne, the Australian Commercial Disputes Centre at Sydney, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, the GCC Commercial Arbitration Centre at Bahrain and the Frankfurt International Arbitration Center of German Institution of Arbitration (DIS) and the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce and Industry.