Dubai Arbitration Week 2015 took place last week featuring an extensive programme of events, discussions and debates. The attendance of local and international practitioners, counsel, experts, arbitrators and institutions highlighted Dubai's position and reputation as a regional centre for international arbitration.

16 November 2015

UAE Branch of the CIArb

The week kicked off with an event hosted by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in which the discussion focussed on the growth of cross-border international trade, especially into emerging markets with diverse legal systems, which is expected to lead to greater reliance on arbitration as a dispute mechanism and to the diversification of arbitration users and practitioners appointed to represent them in arbitration proceedings.

This shift will directly affect the conduct of arbitration proceedings as users and practitioners from different jurisdictions seek to resolve their disputes in arbitration leading to the prevalence of the question of what constitutes "ethical" and "unethical" conduct.

If arbitration is to maintain its reputation as providing "level playing field" for parties seeking to resolve their disputes, the rules of the game will need to be set out in the development of "Codes of Conduct" which are enforced by Tribunal's and/or domestic courts to prevent any party obtaining a "home team" advantage. 

The UAE is a melting pot of different cultures and legal practitioners, many of whom provide legal services in both a civil law jurisdiction (ie Dubai) and a common law jurisdiction (ie the DIFC). The shift to the East of globalisation means that Dubai is uniquely placed to establish itself as a hub between East and West and North and South and to continue its development as a key arbitral seat.

Dubai Arbitration Lawyers Dining Society (DALDS)

The first social event of Dubai Arbitration had record attendance as the crowd of about 100 diners, including practitioners, forensic, construction and other experts and arbitrators from regional and international jurisdictions continued to discuss enthusiastically the earlier CIArb Centenary event, providing their own predictions for the next 100 years of arbitration.

17 November 2015

MENA Young Arbitrators Conference

The event was co-ordinated between young practitioner groups of institutions and organisations such as the ICDR, ICC, YIAG, DIAC and CIArb.

The recent results of the 2015 International Arbitration Survey conducted by Queen Mary University of London which, amongst other things, highlighted "costs" as the worse feature of arbitration followed by “lack of effective sanctions during the arbitral process”, “lack of insight into arbitrators’ efficiency” and “lack of speed” provided ample material for attendees to discuss ways in which Tribunals, practitioners and institutions could address such concerns.

Suggestions such as the imposition of deadlines by which final awards were required to be rendered; the publication of time and cost statistics by institutions; and application of clear cut financial sanctions to any Tribunal which fails to render awards in an efficient and timely manner, all provided food for thought to institutions, practitioners and arbitrators alike.

Arbitral Women

The Arbitral Women event held at the Capital Club took the form of a vibrant and light-hearted debate before both male and female attendees on the question of whether female counsel and arbitrators are more effective than their male counterparts.

Following the debate, the discussion continued providing insight into the statistical discrepancy between the number of male and female arbitrators appointments and a number of more personal insights from audience members addressing cultural and social norms experienced by both sexes and the need for the advancement of female arbitrators by both genders to ensure that both sexes are represented equally in the arbitration field.

18 November 2015

ICC Arbitration Event

The ICC event addressed the recently launched ICC Dispute Board Rules and highlighted the benefits to parties seeking to avoid and resolve disputes in the context of construction contracts without recourse to arbitration and/or litigation.

In the second session, members of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and its Secretariat discussed the process by which a detailed review of the parties' positions is carried out by the ICC Court from the outset of any proceedings to ensure that decisions relating to matters such as the advance on costs; decisions on jurisdiction; and the constitution of the Tribunal are key to ensuring the efficient administration of cases.

DIFC-LCIA Event

The relaunch of the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre was held in the DIFC Conference Centre. The event was a joint initiative by the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the locally established DIFC Arbitration Institute ("DAI"), which will run the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre.

The Panel, comprising the DAI Board of Trustee members and the Head of the Dispute Resolution Authority, were keen to stress that the legislative framework setting up the DAI provided a complete response to concerns as to the constitutionality of the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre and/or the jurisdictional reach of DIFC-LCIA awards raised - 2009.

The DIFC-LCIA Centre will operate parallel to but independently of the DIFC Courts, with the required governance provided by the Board of Trustees and day to day running by a new Registrar whose appointment is imminent.

The Panel discussed current developments in the LCIA Rules, including the benefits of the implementation of the 2014 LCIA Rules dealing with the conduct of party appointed counsel, the expedited formation of arbitral Tribunals and emergency arbitrator procedures.

It is expected that similar amendments will be made to the DIFC-LCIA Rules in the near future.

19 November 2015

GAR Live 2015

GAR Live concluded Dubai Arbitration Week 2015 and was divided into four sessions as follows:

  1. Which Gulf or nearby seat?
  2. GAR Live symposium
  3. Construction arbitration - hot topics
  4. GAR Live debate

The debate between practitioners seeking to promote Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE/DIFC and Bahrain as the preferred designated seat reached an expected outcome that: one size does not fit all and parties should seek to elect a seat based on the circumstances relating to the specific contract in question.

The final session of the day was the GAR Live debate on the motion: This house believes that the proliferation of guidelines is slowly killing IA. Whilst couched in extreme terms, there was a lively and thoughtful discussion between participants who were then subjected to challenging questions from the Panel.

Following the debate, there was significant participation from the audience representing the who's who of the legal community in Dubai (and beyond).

Whilst the motion ultimately failed, there was a clear general consensus that the proliferation of non-mandatory rules and guidelines issued by bodies such as the IBA and CIArb seeks to ensure equality in arbitration and, if adopted and applied with common sense, provide a useful point of reference for Tribunals and party counsel from different jurisdictions.