Existing mediation landscape
Mediation has deep historical roots in local culture. Whilst commercial disputes are often resolved through arbitration and court actions, it is certainly not unheard of for multi-million dollar commercial disputes to settle amicably in the majlis (Arabic: ‘a place for sitting’), guided by a respected third party. Formal mediation options for commercial disputes have also existed for some time. Both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai chambers of commerce offer mediation services to members, the Centre for Amicable Resolution of Disputes in Dubai provides compulsory mediation services for smaller claims and optional mediation for larger ones (Dubai Law No. 16 of 2009, as amended by Administrative Resolution No. 1 of 2017 and Administrative Resolution No. (51) of 2020), and mediation is available under rules applicable in the Dubai International Financial Centre Court and Abu Dhabi Global Market Court.
What has changed?
The UAE Mediation Law is landmark legislation. It creates a comprehensive regulatory structure for mediation throughout the UAE for the first time, ensuring that a consistent framework applies in all emirates. The law follows a global trend towards regulation that either strongly encourages or mandates mediation of civil disputes. For example, in the UK, local courts have power to encourage mediation, provided both parties consent, while in Australia, the courts have power to compel parties to mediate, regardless of their consent.