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Permanent Court of Arbitration

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was established by the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, concluded at The Hague in 1899 during the first Hague Peace Conference.

The most concrete achievement of the Conference was the establishment of the PCA, the first global mechanism for the settlement of inter-state disputes. The 1899 Convention, which provided the legal basis for the PCA, was revised at the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. Ireland acceded to the Convention in 2002.

Despite its name, the PCA is neither permanent nor a proper Court. Rather than a permanent bench, made of judges which have not been selected by the parties, and who apply pre-determined rules of procedure, the PCA provides states with a roster of potential arbitrators to form an ad hoc arbitral tribunal. The only component of the PCA which is permanent is its secretariat, known as the International Bureau which provides the logistical support for it.

In 1937 the states parties to the 1907 Convention agreed that the International Bureau of the PCA, which acts as the Court's Registry, should offer its services to other conciliation bodies. Later, the International Bureau was given the authority to make its services available in disputes between parties, only one of which is a state, while the Secretary General of the PCA was conferred with a dispute resolution role in the appointment of an arbitrator in any arbitration proceedings conducted under the Rules on International Commercial Arbitration adopted by the UN Commission on by the International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

As a party to the Convention, Ireland may designate up to four persons “of known competency in questions of international law”, to act as “Members of the Court”. Parties to a dispute resolution may, but are not required to select arbitrators or other adjudicators from among them. In addition to their role as arbitrators, Members of the Court, acting as “national groups” are entitled to nominate candidates for election to both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Ireland has nominated, as members to the Permanent Court of Arbitration's Panel of Arbitrators, Mr Justice David Barniville President of the High Court, Professor Siobhán Mullally, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, University of Galway, and Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe, judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland. 

Ireland has used the PCA as a Secretariat in its arbitral disputes with the United Kingdom in relation to the operation of the Mixed Oxide (‘MOX') reprocessing plant at Sellafield under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic (‘OSPAR') and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (‘UNCLOS').