CIETAC handled the highest caseload in 2020..
CIETAC handled the highest caseload in 2020..
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By Dr. Markus Altenkirch and Elias Klodt

It is this time of the year again: most major arbitration institutions have published their statistical reports, giving us the opportunity to take a closer look at their numbers. As usual, we start off comparing the caseload of various arbitration institutions. We then examine other relevant data such as the total amount in dispute, the number of emergency or expedited procedure applications, arbitrator challenges, and figures on diversity to understand the direction arbitration is headed as well as its trends.

Caseload numbers

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Name of institution 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) 759 767 791 801 966 810 842 869 946
ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) 50 40 38 52 48 53 56 39 58
SCC (Stockholm Chamber of Commerce) 177 203 183 181 199 200 152 175 213
LCIA (London Court of International Arbitration) 277 301 300 326 303 285 317 395 440
SIAC (Singapore International Arbitration Centre) 235 259 222 271 343 452 402 479 1080
HKIAC (Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre) 293 260 252 271 262 297 265 308 318
DIS (German Arbitration Institute) 125 121 132 134 166 152 153 110 162
VIAC (Vienna International Arbitration Centre) 70 56 56 40 60 43 64 45 40
SCAI (Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution) 92 69 106 96 81 74 81 95 83
ICDR (International Centre for Dispute Resolution) 996 1165 1052 1063 1050 1026 993 882 n/a
CIETAC (China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission) 1060 1256 1610 1968 2181 2298 2962 3333 3615
PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration) 27 35 39 42 40 41 56 49 59
KCAB (Korean Commercial Arbitration Board) 360 338 382 413 381 385 393 443 405
TOTAL 4521 4870 5163 5658 6080 6116 6736 7222 7419

In our conclusion to the 2019 analysis, we were wondering how the institutions would weather the COVID-19 storm. In short: they did very well. Despite – or maybe even because – of COVID-19, the field of arbitration continued to grow throughout 2020. In 2020, the combined number of new arbitration cases of our selected institutions amounted to an impressive 7419. To put this into perspective: the year before, the number of cases added up to 6375, resulting in an increase of 16%. Looking back now, this is not surprising. The pandemic not only undoubtedly sparked a great number of (cross-border) disputes. It is likely that the institutions also profited from the total halt of some state courts. Arbitral institutions managed to keep the system running and it is remarkable how fast they adapted to the limitations that went hand in hand with the global pandemic. It is safe to say that international arbitration proved and advertised itself in the difficult year that was 2020.

A number of arbitral institutions even registered an all-time high of new cases: the LCIA, HKIAC, CIETAC, ICSID, SIAC and the PCA. Especially the SIAC had plenty of reason to celebrate as they more than doubled their case numbers compared to the previous year and also crossed the magical threshold of 1,000 new cases in a year.

The yearly amount in dispute reflects the prosperity of arbitration. Leading the group by far, the average amount in dispute of cases filed with the ICC during 2020 was USD 54 million. In 8.5 % percent of their new cases, the amount in dispute was more than USD 100 million. In general, the total amount in dispute for 2020 increased for most institutions. Noteworthy are the SCC with an increase by a third compared to 2019 and the HKIAC which doubled the end-of-year amount.

The proportion of international cases remained on a similar level throughout the institutions. In this category, the SIAC, LCIA and SCAI have the lead. Following closely behind, the HKIAC and ICC registered a slight proportional drop in international cases.

In light of COVID-19, the number of emergency arbitration increased unsurprisingly under almost every institution.

Expedited procedures have been an integral part of arbitration for some time now and the numbers show that they steadily increase in numbers. They continue to be exceptionally relevant at the SCC and SCAI – there, the number of applications constitute roughly a third of all new cases.

No significant changes concerning arbitrator challenges could be detected. As in 2019, the ICC stands out – this time with a total of 92 challenges. Only the SCC is at a similar proportional level. It is noteworthy that the HKIAC registered just a single challenge.

The parties’ preferred nationality of arbitrators remains mostly unchanged, too.

We want to take a closer look at the arbitrators’ diversity, however. Looking at the statistics of the last three years, we can make out an overall slow but steady increase. Since 2018, the percentage of female arbitrators in ICC cases increased by about 2 percentage points every year, with almost every fourth arbitrator being female now. The LCIA experienced a real boost since 2018: every year, the number of female arbitrators increased by 5 percentage points and now sits at a leading 33 %. Similarly, almost every third arbitrator is female in SCC and VIAC cases. Both these institutions registered a major jump in numbers after a decrease in 2019.

Although some institutions only provide the number of female arbitrators appointed by the institution itself, other institutions publicize numbers that distinguish between appointments by the institution, co-arbitrators, and the parties. These numbers shed a slightly different light on the progress of achieving diversity: For example, the percentage of female arbitrators appointed by the HKIAC itself amounts to 22.8 %. In comparison, every third arbitrator designated by co-arbitrators in HKIAC cases is female – which is en par with the overall average of the LCIA. Sadly, however, only 11.1 % of all party-appointed arbitrators in HKIAC cases are female.

As stated before, almost every third (31.7 %) arbitrator in VIAC cases is female. Of all arbitrators nominated by the parties and co-arbitrators in these cases, however, only 24.2 % are female.

Similarly, 30% of the arbitrators in SCAI cases are female. Of all appointments made by the Court, a remarkable 71 % were female arbitrators, from which we can infer that the percentage of female arbitrators appointed by the parties (and possibly co-arbitrators) is much lower than 30%.


In last year’s analysis, we noted that “2019 continued to remain a busy year for all arbitral institutions” but that “much work remains to be done to improve their image on certain parameters, specifically with respect to diversity.” Considering how well arbitration has fared in 2020 despite the extreme circumstances, it is safe to say that it has been an extraordinary year for arbitration. With respect to diversity, we can appreciate that the overall numbers are still growing. And we welcome that a variety of institutions take an active role in fostering diversity by appointing more and more female arbitrators. The numbers on party-appointed arbitrators show, however, that there is still a long way ahead.