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Co-sponsored by the Sierra Leonean Bar Association. 

25 February 2021, 10:00 – 15:15 GMT, Radisson Blu Hotel, Freetown and Via Zoom 

The Center for International Law and Policy in Africa (CILPA) and the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) co-hosted this workshop on Sierra Leone’s landmark accession to the New York Convention, as the first event in a series of International Law Discussions.

On 28 October 2020, Sierra Leone deposited the instrument of ratification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the depositary of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention), signifying the country’s accession to ‘the most successful treaty in private international law’ adopted in New York on 10 June 1958. The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) also lodged a declaration and reservation on reciprocity, commercial reservation and non-retroactive application of the Convention. The Convention entered into force for Sierra Leone on 26 January 2021 in accordance with its article XII (2). 

With recognition that the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards is seen as an important tool to protect investors and to promote foreign direct investment, Sierra Leone’s accession to the New York Convention had been a key national priority. The accession should usher in, as a matter of high priority, the establishment of a new legislative framework for domestic and international commercial arbitrations. As Sierra Leone applies international law from a dualist perspective in accordance with Section 40(4)(d) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone (Act. No. 6 of 1991), the expression of consent by the GoSL to join the New York Convention Contracting States Parties should be complemented by the necessary legal and policy framework to allow for effective domestic implementation. 

The process of implementing the New York Convention in Sierra Leone will be greatly assisted with a focused consideration of the lessons learned from other African countries that are already parties to the Convention and the following critical issues/questions: 

1. What is the state of preparedness for effective domestic implementation following the entry into force of the Convention on 26 January 2021 for Sierra Leone? In this regard, what is the status of the draft Arbitration Bill? Is there need for further revision of the Bill? Are the relevant rules of the High Court applicable to New York Convention arbitral awards recognition and enforcement? Are legal practitioners and end-users (the business community) well informed to activate the attendant benefits of domesticating the Convention? 

2. What are the legal implications (specific to the Convention and General International Law) relating to the declaration and reservations by the GoSL? 

3. What are the next steps on implementing the Convention and arbitration practice in Sierra Leone? 

Various perspectives were presented on the above, and  speakers, panelists and participants shed light on the topic, in order to foster a full understanding of the meaning and implication of Sierra Leone’s accession of the New York Convention.