Dispute Settlement Mechanism

Wooden gavel in a courtroom
The Dispute Settlement Mechanism established under Article 20 of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement and elaborated in the Protocol on Rules and Procedures on The Settlement of Disputes is the central plank of the Agreement for the amicable, secured, transparent, predictable and swift resolution of disputes. The Dispute Settlement Mechanism aims to resolve differences between State Parties concerning their rights and obligations under the Agreement.

The Key Institutions of the Dispute Settlement Mechanism are:

The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) – It is comprised of all State Parties and provides political oversight over implementation and surveillance of Disputes. It has the responsibility to adopt reports of Panels and the Appellate Body and ensure that the rulings and recommendations are upheld.
The Adjudicating Panels – Panellists are selected from an Indicative List of Panellists to adjudicate on disputes. The Panel is made up of individuals who are competent with experience in law, international trade and other matters covered by the Agreement. Each State Party is enjoined by the Agreement to nominate two individuals to the Indicative List of Panellists established and maintained by the Secretariat. Although nominated by governments, Panellists, serve in their individual capacities.
The Appellate Body– The Appellate Body under the Agreement is the tribunal of final instance. If a Party disagrees with any aspect of a Panel Report, it may appeal to the Appellate Body.  The function of the Appellate Body is to uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of the Panel. The Appellate Body is composed of seven persons of recognised authority with demonstrated expertise in law, international trade and the subject matter of the Agreement generally.
Once the reports of the Panels and Appellate Body are adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body they become legally binding on the disputing parties.
In addition to the adjudicative process featuring the Dispute Settlement Body, Panel and the Appellate Body , State Parties may also, if they choose settle their disputes through the good offices of the Secretary General or through conciliation, mediation and arbitration.