The value of cases received by the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) stood at QR1.64bn in 2021, according to QICCA board member for International Relations Sheikh Dr Thani bin Ali al-Thani.
In an interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA), Sheikh Dr Thani said QICCA considered 162 arbitration cases and issued 75 arbitration rulings. The total number of cases for this year reached 30 arbitration cases, most of which are related to construction contracts, urban development, real estate development, and shortage of raw and building materials, as well as energy and labour issues.
Sheikh Dr Thani said commercial arbitration is a private judiciary based on speed and specialisation in settling disputes between the parties to the contract by people who are fully familiar with transactions, customs, and rules of different branches of trade, especially those of an international nature.
Arbitration is one of the alternative means of resolving disputes and avoiding their emergence through a contractual relationship agreed upon by the parties since the signing of the contract, which supports and facilitates the proper implementation of the contract, he said.
Sheikh Dr Thani said disputes that arise between the parties to the contract are referred according to the arbitration rules to people independent of the parties and completely impartial to be settled by a final and binding judgment upon the parties.
Sheikh Dr Thani said Qatar is one of the first countries to join the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation or the ‘Singapore Convention on Mediation’, which entered into force on September 12, 2020. Mediation is a fast, effective, and low-cost means to resolve commercial disputes between parties, he said.
The Qatari legislator, through the issuance of Arbitration Law No 2 of 2017 in Civil and Commercial Matters, followed a specific policy and approach towards arbitration as one of the alternative means for resolving disputes between individuals in order to play his role alongside the judiciary, which represents an important leap at the local and global levels as this strengthens the legislative structure that supports investment, and which is reflected in encouraging investment in the country through alternative means of dispute settlement.
He said the evolution of governing rules as an alternative means of dispute resolution is one of the most important legislation supporting the investment process, as it provides an informal legal framework away from the State's courts to settle commercial and civil disputes that may arise between national or foreign parties effectively and save effort, money, and time. Today, arbitration has become a necessity imposed by the economic development of the Qatari market and the growth of global trade, especially in long-term or multilateral international trade contracts, he said.
Sheikh Dr Thani said arbitration has contributed to easing the burden on national courts because of flexibility in procedures and specialisation in the nature of arbitrators chosen by the parties to resolve the disputes that are related to a specific commercial environment that has special rules and foundations as is the case in the trade of raw materials, metals, grain, heavy industries, communications, contracting, urban development, and others.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, Sheikh Dr Thani said the role of technology in arbitration contributed greatly to the development of an organisational framework for holding sessions.
He said many arbitral tribunals' procedural rules were inspired by procedures and guidelines developed, highlighting the ‘Seoul Protocol’ on the use of visual communication application in international arbitration as it aims to serve as a guide to best practices for conducting visual sessions in international arbitration.
Sheikh Dr Thani said the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) also issued guidance to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and enhance the effectiveness of arbitration procedures and recall the procedural tools available to parties, their agents, and arbitral tribunals to mitigate delays resulting from the pandemic.
The International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR) of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) issued a set of directives for arbitrators and parties on visual arbitration. Additionally, a number of protocols and mechanisms were issued by several international bodies and international law firms concerned with arbitration.
Sheikh Dr Thani said international and Arab arbitration centres and institutions, especially in GCC countries, have been operating at full capacity remotely and have issued instructions regarding modern audio-visual techniques that arbitration bodies can use in conducting arbitration procedures based on the rules of arbitration centres.
Sheikh Dr Thani said QICCA aims to promote alternative means of resolving civil and commercial disputes, spread its culture, improve its practices, develop the centre's relationship with regional and international centres, sign MoUs with academic and educational bodies, as well as update and revise the procedural rules for conciliation and arbitration and add new clauses related to emergency and visual arbitration.
QICCA is regularly training arbitrators through specialised courses in arbitration in accordance with international standards. The centre prepared 435 arbitrators, including 175 Qataris.
The centre also holds seminars and conferences specialised in arbitration and mediation and participates in international arbitration conferences related to commercial arbitration, engineering disputes, maritime disputes, banking disputes, and disputes in energy contracts.
QICCA is preparing a reference at the level of all Arab countries that regularly monitors the judicial applications of the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention 1958), as well as unifying the interpretation and application of the convention.