Historic changes to the UAE’s arbitration landscape
While the UAE passed Federal Law No. 6 of 2018 (the UAE Arbitration Law), which is based largely on the UNCITRAL Model Law – bringing it into line with international best practice – DIAC’s hotly anticipated revamped rules for 2018 did not follow.
Fast forward to September 2021 when the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre (EMAC) and DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre (DIFC-LCIA) were closed, with cases being transferred to the DIAC in accordance with Decree No. 34 of 2021.
The last major update to the DIAC’s arbitration rules was made in May 2007 (Old Rules). Since then, there have been many changes to the practice of arbitration, which have sought to encourage efficiencies and greater cost-effectiveness of arbitration. The changes introduced by the New Rules follow suit and are timely, following its absorption of EMAC’s and the DIFC-LCIA’s caseloads.
The main aim of the New Rules is to better reflect the needs of the business community that the DIAC serves, by streamlining existing processes and introducing new ones.
Examples include the ability to serve the Request for Arbitration and the Answer by email or by use of an electronic case management system – gone are the days of arriving at the Chamber of Commerce building with numerous hard copies, hoping you arrived in time to submit in person. Use of an electronic case management system is reflective of the DIFC-LCIA’s approach to case management. It also takes cognizance of the (almost) post-COVID era in which we now find ourselves.
There are a number of new provisions included too, many of which were previously heralded for introduction in the hotly anticipated 2018 update to the rules. For example, consolidation, joinder, expedited proceedings, access to an emergency arbitrator and conciliation are now included.
The New Rules will take effect from March 21, 2022 and will apply to all new requests for arbitration submitted after this date, with the exception of expedited proceedings, which will only apply to agreements to arbitrate made after March 21, 2022 unless the parties agree otherwise. By default, for all ongoing arbitration cases the current rules will continue to apply.
Administrative oversight of cases will now be managed by the DIAC’s new Arbitration Court (replacing the Executive Committee).