The role of an arbitrator is to resolve disputes which the parties have agreed to submit to arbitration. The decisions of the arbitrator require a document subject to certain formalities, and known as the arbitral award. The content and form of an arbitral award, and the discretion enjoyed by arbitrators in making an award will necessarily vary according to the procedural law applicable to the arbitral procedure (lex arbitri), the powers conferred by the parties upon the arbitrator under the applicable arbitration agreement, and the specific form of arbitration used.
There is no internationally accepted definition of “arbitral award,” but the characterisation of any given decision as an arbitral award is nevertheless of great practical significance, since only arbitral awards are covered by international conventions governing recognition and enforcement of awards.1 Similarly, only an arbitral award may be the subject of an action for annulment or recognition and enforcement.
When it comes to identifying an arbitral award, and isolating an award from other types of decisions, it is not the terminology that identifies an arbitral award but rather the nature of the decision per se. The inclusion or omission of elements such as the arbitrators’ names, their signatures or the date, should properly be irrelevant insofar as defining the concept is concerned, although such formalities may well affect the arbitral award once it has been identified as such by virtue of its nature and content.