DIFC Courts
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•   Region’s first pro-bono scheme began in the DIFC Courts
•   Only Court in the world to be awarded the TISSE Customer Service Accreditation

Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 28 February 2014: The Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf CBE, has congratulated the DIFC Courts on their work to increase female participation in the top echelons of the UAE judicial sector, which is a key element of the UAE’s Vision 2021.

Mrs Woolf’s comments were made in Dubai as she joined a delegation of British business leaders on a trip to the UAE. Only the second woman to hold the ceremonial post of Lord Mayor in 700 years, she is an advocate for diversity in the corporate world and has challenged companies in London to increase the representation of women at senior executive and board level. This is a key theme of Tomorrow’s City, a programme of events and dialogue with leaders in the City of London and other major financial centres about ensuring future success is based on long-term value creation and drawing on all the talent available.

Alderman Woolf applauded the DIFC Courts for making diversity a strategic priority, including setting Judicial Officer Maha Al Mehairi on the path to becoming their first female Emirati Judge in the DIFC Courts. Mrs. Al Mehairi, who is also the first Emirati woman to qualify as an accredited mediator of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, originally joined the DIFC Courts as a Case Progression Officer and is working towards becoming a Justice of the DIFC Courts in approximately 2020. She will follow in the footsteps of DIFC Courts’ Justice Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob from Malaysia, who was the UAE’s first female judge.

Women are also strongly represented in the running of the DIFC Courts, with Deputy Registrar Amna Al Owais recognised by the International Bar Association as one of the top three young lawyers in the world, while Manager Events and External Relations Hajar AlMas coordinated the Middle East’s first ever conference on court excellence.

Fiona Woolf said: “A glass ceiling sadly persists in much of the world, preventing brilliant women from reaching their full potential. This affects us all, because we cannot hope to tackle the many challenges facing the world unless we can draw on the best possible minds available, and that means creating a truly meritocratic business environment. I am encouraged by the approach the DIFC Courts have taken to increase the participation of women in the UAE’s judicial sector, and I hope it is replicated in other countries across the region.”

A group from the Lord Mayor’s delegation, including eminent businessman Sir Michael Craig-Cooper CBE, was given a tour of the DIFC Courts where they met with officials including Justice Sir David Steel (former judge in charge of the UK Commercial Court) and His Excellency Justice Ali Shamis Al Madhani. Among the topics discussed was how the DIFC Courts are playing an ever increasing role in support of UK businesses operating in the Middle East and vice versa.

Sir Michael Craig-Cooper CBE said: “Dubai is known around the world as an international business hub and investment destination, but it is fascinating to watch how the emirate has also emerged as a highly regarded centre for commercial justice. As business becomes ever more global, it is vital that judicial systems also become more connected, and it is reassuring to see first-hand the close cooperation that exists between the commercial courts of London and the DIFC.”

Dubai and the City of London enjoy historic trade ties which were further strengthened in January 2013 when the DIFC Courts and the Commercial Court of England and Wales signed a “Memorandum of Guidance” that defines such issues as the mutual enforcement of judgments. The Memorandum is designed to assist investors, businessmen and lawyers in the UK who wish to develop closer trade and investment links with the emirate, and vice versa.

Justice Sir David Steel said: “The delegation from the Lord Mayor’s party is indicative of the spirit of cooperation that exists between Dubai and London. Just last month, the current Judge in Charge of the UK Commercial Court, the Hon. Mr Justice Cooke, was here to talk at the first DIFC Courts lecture of 2014, and today’s delegation is another opportunity to reinforce the strong commercial and legal ties between the UK and UAE.”