Publication date: 
17 Oct 2017

A delegation from the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (“QICDRC”) has travelled to Sydney, Australia, in order to sponsor the Annual Conference of the International Bar Association.

The 2017 conference, which finished at the weekend, was attended by over 4,000 judges, lawyers and other legal professionals who congregated to attend sessions on a wide variety of legal issues including anti-corruption, arbitration, construction, crime, health, human rights, environment, financial services, insolvency, intellectual property, international trade and customs, litigation, mediation, media, mining, oil and gas, technology, and transportation.

A highlight of the week was the Arab Regional Forum lunch which also had (as its exclusive sponsor) the QICDRC. The sold-out lunch provided a welcome opportunity for dialogue between legal professionals from various Middle Eastern countries as well those from the international legal and business community who conduct business in the Middle East. Joseph Rizk, of Arab Bank Australia, provided the key note address on the subject of cross border trade and investment between Australia and the Middle East observing, in particular, the successes of Middle Eastern airlines (such as Qatar Airways) whose operations had considerably improved tourism and business between Australia and the Middle East. The Registrar of the QICDRC, Mr Christopher Grout, observed “Once again, the Arab Regional Forum lunch has provided an excellent opportunity for dialogue for those in the Region as well as for those outside it. Such an opportunity is vital to secure and maintain effective legal and business relationships- which are more important now than ever before.”

Of the numerous sessions that were held throughout the course of the week, Mr Grout spoke passionately about litigation and arbitration in Qatar as well as about the importance of employment laws which strive to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. As to the latter, Mr. Grout, during a session presented by the Discrimination and Equality Law Committee, talked about the improvements that had been made in Qatar following recent changes in the law and commented upon the employment framework in the Qatar Financial Centre. He said- “The QFC has adopted a special legislative, regulatory and judicial framework in accordance with best international practices. Its employment regulations tackle discrimination head on by prohibiting discrimination on various grounds. The QFC has also established an independent Employment Standards Office to determine contractual disputes that may arise between the employee and employer. Such determinations which the ESO may make are susceptible to appeal to international judges who exercise judicial function through the QFC Regulatory Tribunal.”

During a session on the role of good advocacy in arbitrations, jointly presented by the Forum for Barristers and Advocates, the Arbitration Committee, the Litigation Committee and the Mediation Committee, the panel discussed the challenges that can arise for advocates who are appearing before international panels. On the practices in Qatar, Mr. Grout observed- “The QICDRC provides an excellent forum for the resolution of disputes with an international element. Indeed, it is geared up that way. For example, you could have a case where the constitution of the Court is made up with one judge from Qatar, one judge from England and another from New Zealand. One party may be represented by lawyers trained in the common law, the other represented by a civil lawyer. It is a testament to Qatar’s vision that such a practice can be accommodated, but accommodated it is. The result is a judicial system which draws upon all the best practices from various countries throughout the world and one which accommodates parties and their legal representatives wherever they may hail from.”

Mrs Justice Frances Kirkham- a judge of the QICDRC- was part of the delegation. In addition to providing an interview with the IBA during her visit, Judge Kirkham focused on sessions relating to arbitration and construction. In particular, she accompanied the International Construction Projects Committee on a construction focused tour of the Sydney Opera House where members discussed matters relating to international construction projects. Judge Kirkham commented, “I have enjoyed the sessions at the IBA conference focusing on arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution, particularly in relation to international construction projects.  These have included consideration of the importance of understanding cultural differences, and presentations and practical exercises dealing with the different approaches taken by courts and arbitrators in civil law and common law jurisdictions.  The formal sessions and the lively discussions which take place outside these have been stimulating, and of course relevant to issues encountered in the QICDRC. Furthermore, the IBA provides an excellent forum for discussing the importance to all of the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

As with previous years, the Annual Conference culminated in a Rule of Law Symposium which this year focused on the politics of judicial appointments. As the session noted, “An independent, competent, incorruptible judiciary is a cornerstone of the rule of law. It is the judiciary that can provide recourse and redress for failures and abuses of the rule of law when they occur…A judiciary that is political, biased, malleable or corrupt can undercut or nullify a country’s commitment to the rule of law.”  

Overall, the 2017 Annual Conference was a tremendous success and the QICDRC was proud to play a part in such a significant event.