Law Governing Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Award

Domestic award

Often awards arising out of international arbitration proceedings are actually enforced under the regime of domestic awards. Though each state is generally free to determine which awards it considers to be domestic, the relevant criterion is normally the place of arbitration. As a consequence, recognition and enforcement of awards rendered within a country are usually governed by the provisions on domestic awards, irrespective of the national or international character of the underlying arbitration. The national legislature is generally free to regulate the recognition and enforcement of domestic awards. There are no international conventions imposing a minimum standard as exist for foreign awards. In general, however, national arbitration laws have adopted a pro-enforcement approach also for domestic awards.

Foreign award

The New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 1958 constitutes the backbone of the international regime for the enforcement of foreign awards. There are a number of other international conventions and bilateral treaties that provide for the enforcement of foreign awards.

A brief look at major international conventions, treaties, and national laws are as follows:

The New York Convention

The New York Convention is the most widely accepted international convention which has significantly simplified the enforcement of foreign awards and harmonized the national rules for the enforcement of foreign awards. Article III of the New York Convention clearly provides that “each contracting state shall recognize arbitration awards as binding and enforce them in accordance with the rules of procedure of the territory where the award is relied on.” Moreover, Article III mandates that a foreign award must be enforceable without unnecessary inconvenience or excessive fees, and the conditions must not be more onerous than those for domestic awards.

The 1961 European Convention

The 1961 European Convention deals with the enforcement of foreign awards indirectly. It provides that an award set aside at the seat of arbitration may be recognized by the courts of states applying the Convention.

The 1965 Washington Convention

The 1965 Washington Convention is yet another convention with more than 130 countries as signatory which provides for its own enforcement procedures. Each member state is under an obligation to recognize an award rendered pursuant to the convention and enforce the pecuniary obligations imposed by the award considering it as a final judgment of the court in that state.

The Panama Convention

The 1975 Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (Panama Convention) is a convention of the American Region ratified by more than 15 South American states and the US which is more or less similar to the New York Convention as it adopts the same standard.

National Laws and Model Laws

It is of no surprise that various national arbitration laws also contain a provision dealing with the enforcement of foreign awards. However, a majority of them are in line with the New York Convention and have incorporated the verbatim text of the relevant international conventions or have simply provided that the enforcement of foreign awards will be governed by the New York Convention. For instance, in India, Sections 44 to 52 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act deals with foreign awards passed under the NY Convention. Model Law, under Article 36, also provides the grounds on which a court may refuse the enforcement of an award. These grounds are akin to the grounds mentioned under Article V of the New York Convention.


  • Julian D.M. Lew, Louskas A. Mistelis & Stefan M. Kroll, Comparative International Commercial Arbitration (Kluwer Law International, 2003)
  • NALSAR University, International Commercial Arbitration

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