Latest Arbitration Developments in the UAE
On 13 September 2017, together with my colleague Aleem Shahid, I attended a conference organised by the ADGM in Abu Dhabi to introduce the new ICC representative office in the UAE which will service the Middle East and North Africa region. The ICC office aims to be open by early 2018 in the new arbitration hearing centre at the ADGM.
This is a significant development which has been welcomed as enhancing the status of the UAE as the preferred venue for arbitrations seated in the Middle East. According to the ICC, 56 parties from the UAE were involved in cases filed with the ICC Court in 2016, which put the UAE among the top 20 most frequent users of ICC arbitration by nationality1.
The office will be able to accept registrations of new cases under the ICC Rules, which to begin with will be administered by one of the ICC Court Secretariat’s existing case management teams. However, that is intended to change and at the conference Sami Houerbi, a director of the ICC, confirmed that the UAE office was not going to be simply a “satellite to Paris”.
The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is the Abu Dhabi equivalent of the DIFC in Dubai and was launched in 2014. Like DIFC, the ADGM is a separate jurisdiction with its own laws. The ADGM has three independent authorities; the Registration Authority, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority and ADGM Courts, which provide an independent judicial system. Unlike the DIFC Courts, English common law is directly applicable in the ADGM Courts, although the ADGM has not adopted the English Arbitration Act 1996, instead applying the ADGM Arbitration Regulations 2015. This means that in contrast to the DIFC Courts, which I blogged about last week, the ADGM already has its own body of construction case law through existing TCC judgments.
" The ICC representative office is a significant development which has been welcomed as enhancing the status of the UAE as the preferred venue for arbitrations seated in the Middle East."
We also learnt one or two interesting pieces of information at the ADGM/ICC conference. Firstly, it was confirmed that a new Federal Arbitration Law was very close to the statute book, and may well be introduced in the early months of 2018. The law is understood to be based on the UNCITRAL Model Law but understandably will be adapted for use in the UAE.
This is another important development for the UAE, and is one which has been under discussion for a very long time. Currently, arbitrations seated in the UAE are governed by a small number of articles to be found within the UAE Federal Civil Procedures Code. It is not yet known what the new law will include, although it was suggested at the ADGM/ICC conference that there would no longer be a need to ratify arbitration decisions before bringing enforcement proceedings, which should assist in making the enforcement process more efficient.
Second, it was suggested that changes might be introduced before the end of the year to Article 257. As my colleague Robbie McCrea explained in an earlier blog, the amendments to Article 257 were seen as a serious blow to UAE’s reputation as a major centre of international arbitration and a number of arbitrators and experts resigned and/or indicated that they were not prepared to act in the UAE. It is not yet known what those changes are, it may simply be a form of moratorium, but any change or amendment is likely to be welcomed by the international arbitration community.
We will continue to monitor the position.