Enforcing arbitration awards ensures that decisions made during arbitration lead to tangible outcomes, be it monetary settlements, specific actions, or other determined remedies. An arbitration agreement loses its weight without effective enforcement, potentially leaving parties without recourse. The enforcement process takes two primary forms: domestic enforcement, occurring within the award-rendering jurisdiction, and international enforcement, which requires action across country borders. Each type presents distinct challenges, but both are crucial for upholding the integrity and purpose of arbitration. This blog post, the 21st in our Understanding Arbitration: A Guide for Businesses series, offers readers guidance on both enforcement paths, shedding light on their challenges and detailing practical strategies for successful outcomes.

The Importance of Enforcement

Enforcing arbitration awards is the decisive step that transforms decisions into tangible outcomes. Without reliable enforcement, all resources channelled into the arbitration process could be wasted, rendering the process ineffectual. From a commercial perspective, parties rely on this enforcement to protect their rights and ensure they benefit from the awarded remedies. A company that fails to enforce an award might confront significant financial repercussions, potentially jeopardising its operational viability.

Legally speaking, consistent enforcement boosts the stature of arbitration, reinforcing it as a credible alternative to court litigation. If arbitration verdicts are perceived as difficult to enforce, parties might doubt the utility of the process, potentially favouring other resolution methods or avoiding arbitration entirely. Such sentiments undercut the value proposition of arbitration as a swift and efficient avenue for dispute resolution.

Further, when awards go unenforced, the aggrieved party could be trapped in extended legal disputes, amplifying costs and exacerbating uncertainties. These prolonged disputes can be detrimental for entities in fast-paced industries or those with finite resources. Therefore, enforcement upholds the victor’s rights and underscores the efficacy of the arbitration process.

Domestic Enforcement of Awards

Procedure for Enforcement:

Initiating the enforcement of an arbitration award requires an approach to local courts. Parties submit a formal application to the designated court to kick-start this process. Essential to success is the provision of two main documents: the arbitration agreement and the award. Parties should ensure they present either the originals or certified copies. Without these vital documents, enforcement requests risk being side-lined.

Potential Pitfalls in Domestic Enforcement:

Distinct legal traditions mean jurisdictions might interpret arbitration law differently. Sometimes, local legal nuances pose unexpected challenges. A few jurisdictions may exhibit reluctance towards arbitration enforcement, possibly due to ingrained legal reservations or simple unfamiliarity with the arbitration procedure.

Public policy also plays a significant role. Awards conflicting with a state’s fundamental moral, economic, or societal principles can face rejection. Furthermore, allegations of a compromised arbitration process, perhaps due to perceived bias or deceit, can be grounds for refusal by a court.

In certain jurisdictions, the national judicial system where enforcement of an arbitral award is sought might face challenges. This could arise from gaps in the legal framework concerning the award or limited familiarity with international arbitration practices among judicial officers.

Parties against whom awards are rendered can employ various tactics to impede enforcement. Furthermore, court backlogs and standard procedural requirements can introduce delays. While these challenges can diminish some advantages of arbitration, like speed, they don’t negate all the benefits the process offers.

Strategies for Effective Domestic Enforcement:

Awareness and preparation are paramount when navigating the terrain of domestic enforcement. Parties benefit from aligning their arbitration proceedings with jurisdictions known for favouring arbitration. Opting for such locations can streamline subsequent enforcement efforts.

Documents are essential to the enforcement process. The arbitration agreement and the award must be both lucid and comprehensive. Parties should rectify any inconsistencies or ambiguities before court submissions. Being ready to provide additional evidence or explanations will also place parties in a stronger position, as courts may request further information.

International Enforcement of Awards

The New York Convention and Its Significance:

The 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, known more widely as the New York Convention, represents a transformative agreement in international arbitration. With over 170 contracting states, the Convention assures parties that their foreign arbitral awards find recognition and enforcement in member countries. Its adoption has levelled the playing field for international commerce and introduced unparalleled consistency and assurance in cross-border dispute resolutions.

Procedure under the Convention:

To enforce an award in a contracting state, a party must initiate proceedings with the competent authority, typically a national court, in the targeted enforcement jurisdiction. The procedure, while straightforward, requires attention to detail. Parties must present the authenticated original or a duly certified copy of the arbitral award and the agreement from which the award stems. These documents are paramount as their absence or improper authentication can lead to unnecessary delays or even dismissal of the enforcement application.

Common Refusals and Their Avoidance:

Article V of the New York Convention sheds light on the potential grounds for refusing enforcement of a foreign arbitral award. Among these grounds are scenarios where a party demonstrates insufficient notice concerning the arbitrator’s appointment or the arbitration proceedings. Another refusal ground is when the award exceeds the scope of matters agreed upon in the arbitration agreement.

To bolster the chances of successful enforcement, parties should take pre-emptive measures. For one, ensuring that all involved parties receive adequate and timely notice during the arbitration process can prevent potential refusals based on procedural irregularities. Similarly, closely adhering to the terms of the arbitration agreement and ensuring that the arbitral tribunal does not exceed its remit is also critical. Additionally, it proves beneficial to have a firm grasp on the public policy of the state where enforcement is sought. Different jurisdictions may have varying interpretations of public policy, and an award that conflicts with these can face challenges during enforcement.

To aid in smooth enforcement, parties can also consider seeking legal counsel well-versed in the nuances of the New York Convention. Such counsel can guide parties through the procedure, highlight potential pitfalls, and recommend strategies to circumvent refusal grounds.

Challenges and Solutions in International Enforcement

Diverse legal systems present inherent challenges in the international enforcement of arbitral awards. Each jurisdiction has its unique legal traditions and principles, which can sometimes be at odds with the principles of international arbitration. For instance, common law jurisdictions may approach evidence and contract interpretation differently than civil law jurisdictions, leading to different outcomes and interpretations.

Cultural biases and misconceptions regarding arbitration can also impede the enforcement process. Some regions may view arbitration as a lesser form of dispute resolution than their national courts. Such perceptions can affect the willingness of local courts to enforce foreign awards and can lead to unexpected procedural hurdles.

Political or economic barriers add another layer of complexity. In jurisdictions where the state plays a prominent role in business or political considerations heavily influence the judiciary, enforcing an award against a state entity or a favoured domestic company can be particularly challenging.

The New York Convention primarily benefits its signatory countries. If a country has not signed this Convention, other signatory countries are not obligated under the Convention’s terms to recognise or enforce arbitral awards from that non-signatory nation. However, this does not preclude a non-signatory country from recognising or enforcing a foreign arbitral award. Such actions would be based on the country’s national laws or relevant treaties, not the New York Convention.

Enforcement of arbitration awards can prove challenging due to the distinct national arbitration laws in different countries. These laws determine how arbitration proceedings take place and establish the methods for award enforcement. While some countries offer straightforward procedures, others present hurdles owing to differing legal provisions. Such discrepancies can pose significant obstacles, especially when enforcing an award across international borders.

Addressing these challenges requires a combination of knowledge, foresight, and adaptability. Parties should:

1. Research the Jurisdiction: Understand the targeted jurisdiction’s legal system and approach to arbitration before enforcement. This knowledge will help anticipate potential challenges and adjust the enforcement strategy accordingly.

2. Engage Local Experts: Engaging legal professionals with local expertise can help identify and overcome cultural or systemic biases against arbitration.

3. Maintain Flexibility: The enforcement strategy may need adjustments based on local conditions, especially in jurisdictions with political or economic barriers. Being adaptable can improve the chances of a favourable outcome.

4. Foster Positive Relationships: Building good relationships with local stakeholders, including the judiciary, can be invaluable. This doesn’t mean compromising integrity but respecting local customs and practices.

5. Utilise Diplomacy and Mediation: When facing political or economic barriers, consider leveraging diplomatic channels or alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to facilitate enforcement.

6. Encouraging bilateral and multilateral cooperation: Such collaboration can aid the enforcement of international awards. States can enter an agreement and cooperation framework to support the enforcement process and provide mutual assistance in implementing awards.

Practical Toolkit for Enforcing Arbitration Awards

Proactive planning and strategic actions are paramount in the quest for enforcing international arbitral awards. Here’s a practical toolkit to aid parties in ensuring a structured and effective enforcement approach:

1. Conducting Thorough Due Diligence:

Effective enforcement starts with solid groundwork. Before initiating any enforcement action, one should research the targeted jurisdiction extensively. This entails examining the region’s legal system, its history related to enforcing international arbitral awards, and any specific legal provisions or precedents that may be relevant. Being informed aids in anticipating potential challenges and enhances the likelihood of favourable outcomes.

2. Leveraging Local Expertise:

Legal systems come with nuances that might not be evident at first glance. Engaging a local counsel becomes invaluable in such scenarios. They interpret local laws and advise on the best course of action tailored to the specific jurisdiction. Local experts can provide insight into cultural nuances, judicial tendencies, and administrative procedures, making the enforcement process more predictable.

3. Comprehensive Documentation:

Precision in paperwork cannot be overstated. This includes keeping the original arbitration agreement, the award, and all relevant correspondence. When it’s time for enforcement, having an organised, chronological set of documents accelerates the process. Furthermore, ensure that all records adhere to the stipulations of the enforcing jurisdiction, from authentication to translation requirements.

4. Effective Communication:

Enforcement often involves interactions with various stakeholders, from local judiciary members to opposing counsel. Clear, concise, and respectful communication fosters goodwill and facilitates smoother enforcement. Setting out your claims, requests, or positions unambiguously while remaining open to dialogue often leads to quicker resolutions.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Effective dispute resolution hinges on an informed strategy for enforcing international arbitral awards. Instead of relegating enforcement to the background, it demands integration throughout the arbitration process. Adopting this continuous, proactive approach transforms enforcement from a task to a core commitment. Prioritising diligent research, valuing local expertise, ensuring rigorous documentation, and prioritising transparent communication equips parties to face and resolve enforcement challenges adeptly. By embracing this comprehensive perspective, parties position themselves to harness the full potential of arbitration, ensuring that decisions hold weight and lead to actionable outcomes.


The insights presented in this blog post aim to furnish readers with a broad understanding of arbitration within the context of global business. This material does not purport to provide legal advice, but rather serves as an informative resource. Specific decisions concerning arbitration and its relevance should always be made in consultation with qualified legal experts. Given the intricate variations and legal implications of arbitration across different jurisdictions, it is paramount to collaborate with legal professionals well-acquainted with the precise legal framework pertinent to your circumstances.

If you find this content valuable and have further questions, or if you require guidance on the detailed aspects of arbitration, please feel free to reach out to our dedicated team at arbitration@broderickbozimo.com. We stand ready to guide you through these processes and address any areas of concern.

Isaiah Bozimo

Isaiah Bozimo


Qawiyyat Ibrahim

Qawiyyat Ibrahim

NYSC Associate

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