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How is the world of arbitration responding to COVID-19?

Arbitration, commercial and investment, is a powerful global international tool for the solving of disputes.

The current COVID-19 health crisis is having a great impact on the day to day of arbitrations: To name a few, for example, how to:

  • Conduct hearings during the lockdown if it is difficult to reach the hearing city?
  • Issue awards if centers are not physically present?
  • Deliver hard-versions of submissions if air space is not open (and parcels travel in passenger flights)?…

As a result, processes continue as much as parties expressly agree to adjust within the framework of the arbitration.

The good news is that the arbitration community is responding quite well to the new requirements. Even in jurisdictions historically reluctant to electronic filings and virtual hearings (like the United Arab Emirates), parties and counsels are adjusting and contributing to the situation. Their support is preventing the suspension of the proceedings.

THE FUTURE: ARE THESE CHANGES HERE TO STAY?

The future of this new way to conduct proceedings may lead to faster proceedings and less costly processes:

  • The meeting of agendas of arbitrators tends to prolong the timetables.
  • Travels economically burden processes.

Will we see arbitration agreements selecting electronic arbitrations ?

A point to consider, for sure. An option and options are always positive.

This being said, the pre-agreement of too many specifics may be contrary to the interest of the eventual dispute. For example: if there’s a significant number of technical aspects to be decided, not having expert evidence near and not being able to make reference to given documents may make the flow of the hearing difficult. Also, some jurisdictions may make it difficult to operate on electronic mode.

A SINGLE SOLUTION? 

In conclusion, these points remind us that arbitration is a tailor-made solution and arbitration practitioners need to study a number of angles to safeguard the ultimate arbitration award.

Difficult times are challenges to improve. The arbitration community is passing with a good grade the adjustment to COVID-19. 

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