Tue | May 23, 2017

Chartered Institute of Arbitrators conference starts today

Published:Monday | July 6, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Dr Christopher Malcolm

Local, regional and international arbitrators will converge in Kingston for the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) - Caribbean Branch, centennial conference at the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies, Mona, starting today and ending on July 11. The conference will see judges, lawyers, and academics from as far as Lebanon, Canada, and the United Kingdom in attendance.

Convenor of the conference is Dr Christopher Malcolm, director of the Mona Law Institutes Unit and former attorney general of the British Virgin Islands. In an email interview, he told The Gleaner about his expectations of the conference.

Q: As convenor of the conference, what are you hoping it will achieve?

A: The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators - Caribbean Branch is part of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, which is headquartered in London and has been in existence for more than 100 years. The CIArb now has over 13,000 worldwide members, who carry a premier certification of membership that has global notoriety and stamp of approval.

While the CIArb brand is important, we have recognised that bearing a global stamp of approval is an important, but not the most important, ingredient required to support the building of viable arbitration practices within the Caribbean region, with beneficial impact for our members, our individual jurisdictions, and the region more generally.

We also know from experience that the field of arbitration, certainly for those plying their trade at international level, is skewed towards favouring those who have best built their capacity for relevant knowledge and know-how in the field. As with any other discipline, know-how is learnt from experience, including, most importantly, from the experiences of others. This experiential method allows for knowledge and know-how to be passed on.

Against this background, this conference has been organised to support capacity building for our members and non-members, and will also serve as a viable networking opportunity for all of the attendees. We have, of course, made every effort to, and have in fact secured, the participation of some of the very best international arbitration practitioners, Furthermore, our faculty of facilitators is complemented by several of our own regional judges, practitioners, and academics.

Q: Are you satisfied with the level of support from Jamaican and other prospective participants so far?

A: The support for any conference could always be better than the support actually received. Having said that, it is fair to also say that we have received reasonably good support thus far and expect to receive even more local support for the conference. Participants will get Continuing Legal Professional Development credits, which have been secured through the General Legal Council for every aspect of the conference and training programme and that the prestigious Law, and Business Review of the Americas has given a firm commitment to publish the deliberations.

Q: Do you think Jamaican private-sector leaders fully understand the role of arbitration in advancing their business interests in the region?

A: While arbitration is not a new discipline, its use, particularly in the settlement of commercial disputes, has grown in significance in recent years. With this growth, and increasing importance of arbitration, there has also been related reform of arbitration regimes in many countries. In Jamaica, and across much of the Caribbean region, the required updating of arbitration legislation and regimes has not kept pace with what is happening elsewhere.

What we then have is a scenario in which many of our private-sector leaders have not been brought into best practice arbitration exposure, and many are not then been encouraged to learn more about and apply it in their day-to-day affairs. In short, there may be lack of understanding and, if so, this may well be justified by an overall lack of clarity in the applicable regimes and that these leaders have not yet been convinced, for one reason or another, that they should focus more on arbitration.

It is, however, not a case of gloom and doom. It is worth noting, for example, that there is quite a bit of arbitration that happens every day, particularly in the construction industry. This usage will not always be apparent as arbitration is a private mechanism and awards made, unless they become the subject of court challenge, are not usually made public.

The remaining challenge is, of course, to make arbitration more notorious in the settlement of day-to-day commercial disputes, which could then help to reduce court backlog and more importantly, as we see it, be properly leveraged in support of economic growth and sustainable development

Q: How can the CIArb help the region to understand their/its role?

A: Through this conference, and other activities that we have been undertaking, the Caribbean Branch will continue to work in support of capacity building for arbitration throughout the region. This effort is not inward looking and the branch has already partnered, as evidenced by who the conference sponsors are, with other entities to assist our way forward. We have also been working with policymakers and will continue this effort to assist, where called upon so to do, their decisions and implementation strategies. As we proceed, we will also continue to leverage, to the maximum extent possible, the networks that are available to the branch and use them in support of capacity building and more general sharing of information.