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Global and local challenges in commercial dispute resolution

Global and local challenges in commercial dispute resolution

January 25, 2018


Amna Sultan Al Owais, Chief Executive & Registrar, DIFC Courts

In a world that is more globalised and connected than ever, one element still dictates the success of commerce – trust… and the ability to trade securely with business certainty. We are seeing the transnational movement of goods and services across the world through hundreds and thousands of different companies. Inevitably this sustained flow of commerce will attract disputes.

If we cast our gaze across the various global legal infrastructures, it becomes apparent that the challenges for commercial dispute resolution run much deeper than superficial procedural obstacles.

Perceptions need to change from the Courts as a concrete building to a trust-worthy service provider. Dispute resolution needs to be more about providing a service – helping people resolve problems they can’t work out themselves. Adopting user-friendly procedures, reinforcing the overall courts experience is crucial as a stepping stone to building trust. Effective and less-expensive access to dispute resolution procedures and regulatory systems need to work in tandem with governments that ensure the rule of law is being honoured.

There is discussion in recent times of artificial intelligence and how it can revolutionise the legal sector. At a very practical level, some dispute resolution centres are failing to even introduce intelligent automation. It has caused many courts around the world to lag behind in solving disputes, including arbitration, mediation, or private sector resolutions.

So, how do we make sure that the global supply chain is secure and ensure trust in the network? We start by ensuring that our courts and regulatory systems are smart, hyper-connected and nimble enough to keep pace with global commerce.

Here in Dubai, we at the DIFC Courts have recognised the inherent need for our dispute resolution services to meet the demands that are challenging traditional disciplinary and geographical boundaries. While every country in the world has some kind of system for resolving commercial disputes, those ranked highest by the World Bank, as well as an increasing number of emerging economies, have recognised that investing in efficient, well-respected business courts. This is not a nice-to-have, but rather a need-to-have if they want to compete globally for investment.

Businesses in Dubai are free to choose between litigation and arbitration; common versus civil law; or English versus Arabic language – whichever system best suits their specific needs. The driving force has not been competition between courts for cases, but rather competition between countries for investment.

When it comes to resolving disputes, businesses like choice and they need certainty. Dubai and DIFC is a place where a contract will be honoured, a dispute settled, and a loan repaid, essential ingredients for creating a pro-business environment.


*This blog is based on excerpts taken from a speech delivered at the Middlesex University Dubai: Fourth International Conference on Emerging Research Paradigms in Business and Social Sciences (ERPBSS-2018). The full speech can be read at:



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