REUTERS | Arnd Wiegmann

Please, take a seat: Switzerland among users’ preferred choices according to ICC statistics

On 31 July 2018, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) released its full statistical report for 2017. For the first time, the report is available to the public free of charge.

This report details the many changes to the ICC’s practice that occurred in 2017 and confirms the ICC’s firm position as the most preferred arbitral institution in the world. The statistics contained in the report also evidence the leading role played by Switzerland, Swiss law and Swiss arbitrators. It also shows that arbitration is (slowly) evolving into a more diverse practice.

The ICC changes and expands in 2017

The ICC International Court of Arbitration undertook significant reforms in 2017, addressing calls for greater efficiency and transparency. In particular, the court introduced a new, flexible expedited procedure (applicable to cases with a total amount in dispute of up to US $2 million) and a new, one-month time limit to issue the terms of reference.

The secretariat of the court also extended its global reach in 2017 by opening a third overseas case management office in Sao Paulo, in addition to its Hong Kong and New York offices. A fourth one opened in Singapore in early 2018.

Statistical highlights in 2017

The court set new statistical records in 2017, with 512 awards approved, 1,488 arbitrators appointed or confirmed and parties originating from 142 countries. These figures (together with the opinion expressed by users) confirm that the ICC remains the most preferred arbitral institution.

In 2017, the court registered 810 new cases, a slightly lower figure than the 966 cases registered in 2016. 1,578 pending cases were being administered by the court at the end of 2017. The statistics registered in relation to those cases confirm that Switzerland plays a leading role in the field of international arbitration.

Switzerland is the second most frequently chosen seat

Switzerland was the second most frequently chosen seat in the world in 2017. Arbitrations conducted under the ICC Rules were seated in 104 different cities spread over 63 countries. 13% of all proceedings were seated in Switzerland, with 51 cases seated in Geneva (7.6%) and 36 in Zurich (5.4%). Switzerland is therefore second only to Paris, where 121 cases were seated (18.1%), but remains ahead of London (73 cases accounting for 10.9%), Singapore (38 cases accounting for 5.7%), New York (28 cases accounting for 4.2%), and other leading seats.

Swiss law most commonly chosen civil law

Parties included a choice of law clause in their contracts in 87% of the disputes referred to ICC arbitration in 2017. Although the precise figures are not available, the report confirms that Swiss law is the fourth most commonly chosen law by parties in ICC proceedings, behind UK, US and French law.

Swiss law is generally perceived as a “neutral” law and is, as such, generally chosen to govern contracts between non-Swiss parties. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that Swiss parties represent only 1.9% of parties involved in ICC cases in 2017.

Furthermore, the substantive law of Switzerland is popular with users around the world for its business-friendliness, as reflected by extensive party autonomy, its very concise nature and accessibility.

Swiss arbitrators remain top choice

With 116 appointments, Swiss nationals were again amongst the top three most appointed and confirmed arbitrators out of 85 nationalities. They accounted for 7.8% of all appointments, behind arbitrators originating from the UK (219 appointments, accounting for 14.7%) and France (141 appointments, accounting for 9.5%).

Increased diversity

The report also highlights further encouraging data. The number of appointments and confirmations of female arbitrators rose from 209 in 2016 to 249 in 2017, representing 16.7% of all appointments and confirmations. Female arbitrators were appointed or confirmed as co-arbitrators (43%), presiding arbitrators (31%) and sole arbitrators (26%). It is worth mentioning that the ICC Court (which generally appoints 25% of total arbitrators) appointed a larger proportion of female arbitrators (45%) than the parties themselves (41%). The remaining female arbitrators were chosen by co-arbitrators as president (13.6%) or by another appointing authority (0.4%).

In terms of geographical diversity, arbitrators appointed and confirmed in 2017 represented 85 different nationalities, ten more than in 2016. As mentioned, British, French and Swiss nationals remain the most frequently appointed arbitrators. The breakdown of arbitrators by region shows that 59.5% of all arbitrators originated from Europe, 13.7% from Asia and the Pacific, 13.5% from Latin America and the Caribbean, 9.3% from North America, and 3.9% from Africa.

Finally, in 2017, the average age of arbitrators confirmed or appointed was 56 years. Arbitrators appointed by the court (be it directly or following a proposal by a national committee) were, by average, five years younger. 8% of individuals confirmed or appointed as arbitrators were under the age of 40.


In conclusion, the data contained in the ICC Dispute Resolution statistics track those of the 2018 Queen Mary International Arbitration Survey: arbitration remains a highly popular dispute resolution method, with the ICC firmly established as the most preferred arbitral institution in the world. The report also confirms the popularity of Switzerland as an arbitral seat, as well as that of Swiss law and Swiss arbitrators. Finally, it shows that some progress has been made in terms of gender and geographical diversity.

Schellenberg Wittmer Sebastiano Nessi Simon Demaurex

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