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Branch News

CIArb London Branch seminar: Arbitration and ADR in the Middle East

27 June 2017 Branch News
By Amanda Lee FCIArb

Arbitration & ADR in Middle East 

The London Branch, in conjunction with the CIArb, held a seminar entitled “Arbitration and ADR in the Middle East” at 12 Bloomsbury Square on 20 June 2017.


The seminar was chaired by Irvinder Bakshi (London Branch Chairman), who introduced the topic and the distinguished panel of speakers, The London Branch was privileged to welcome CIArb President Prof. Dr. Nayla Comair-Obeid to address the attendees, together with Kim Franklin QC (Crown Office Chambers) and Paul Rose (ArbDB Chambers, London Branch Vice Chairman and Hon. Sec.).


Nayla Comair-Obeid began by discussing salient issues in international arbitration in the Middle East, noting that the growth of arbitration as a viable form of ADR in the Middle East has significantly accelerated in the last decade and drawing on recent institutional caseload statistics.


She identified a number of reasons for such growth: growing awareness in the region of arbitration; the choice of a Middle Eastern seat by parties, particularly when a State was involved and such seat was compulsory; rapidly changing market conditions in the region; and growing internationalisation.


Noting that many Middle Eastern states have taken major legislative steps in respect of their arbitration law, Nayla Comair-Obeid provided a comprehensive overview of recent legislative reform in Qatar before addressing the legislative position in Bahrain, Syria and Saudi Arabia.


Identifying specific exigencies of arbitration to which Middle Eastern courts may be particularly sensitive she highlighted the need for a special Power of Attorney to be obtained by a potential signatory to an arbitration agreement in many MENA jurisdictions, the need for witnesses of fact and expert witnesses to give evidence on oath in UAE, Syria and Jordan seated arbitrations in particular, public policy considerations, issues raised by claims for interest and the impact of the concept of exceptional or unforeseen events. Such issues may have a significant effect on the validity of awards.


Nayla Comair-Obeid concluded by observing that the future is promising for dispute resolution in the Middle East.


Kim Franklin QC offered a UK perspective on arbitration in the Middle East, providing tips for the unwary seeking to arbitrate in the Middle East.


In particular she highlighted the importance of practical considerations when handling disputes, such as:

  • identifying the relevant Middle Eastern country for the dispute in question,
  • managing case management by taking stock of what time zone you are in,
  • the importance of identifying the arbitration law applicable in the relevant Middle Eastern region and practical requirements imposed by it,
  • the importance of the Pledge in promoting arbitrator diversity and the need to consider the potential risk raised by amendment to Article 257 of the UAE Penal Code, which on its face places any arbitrator who fails to uphold the integrity and impartiality of the proceedings at risk of temporary imprisonment.


Turning to mediation, Paul Rose provided a comprehensive overview of mediation initiatives in the Middle East, with special emphasis on the UAE and Dubai.


Reflecting on the history of mediation in the region, he noted that collectivism is of the highest value in Middle Eastern society, which places great importance on relationships.


Against the historical overview provided he outlined the use of compulsory mediation in the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts region and the need In Dubai to first refer any claims not exceeding AED 50,000 (£10,760 approx.); or claims concerning commonly owned property; or claims where any Bank is a party, to the Dubai Centre for Settlement of Amicable Disputes.


Paul Rose went on to address further initiatives such as the establishment of Conciliation and Reconciliation Committees at the Federal Courts in Dubai and the role played by such committees in facilitating disputes.


He went on to identify more recent initiatives in the field of voluntary mediation, such as the establishment of an investor development mediation committee by the Dubai Land Department, the more common use of tiered dispute resolution clauses in contracts and the mediation service offering of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce. Launched in May 2016, the Dubai Mediation Centre offers both traditional Middle Eastern and western style mediation in the region.


He concluded by expressing optimism for the future of mediation in the region. Paul Rose’s remarks are available in full here.


The session concluded with thoughtful comments from the audience and an engaging question and session, following which Irvinder Bakshi extended the thanks of the London Branch to the speakers and the CIArb. Thereafter the speakers and attendees enjoyed a reception provided by the CIArb.