Advancements in technology have helped the arbitration industry adapt to the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, thus proving the effectiveness of remote hearings in resolving various types of disputes, an official of the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) said.
According to Dr Minas Khatchadourian, general counsel of QICCA, the Covid-19 pandemic “has had an unprecedented impact on the arbitral process.” At the start of the pandemic, Khatchadourian noted that several hearings were postponed due to travel restrictions and social distancing measures implemented by the government to curb the spread of the virus.
“Nevertheless, illustrating the adaptability and flexibility of arbitration, several tribunals and arbitral institutions quickly adapted by ordering remote hearings,” Khatchadourian told Gulf Times.
He said QICCA organised hearings that were conducted virtually through videoconference with participants “in one or more geographical places.”
“The reality is that remote hearings can work, and we have seen several successful examples of this. The technology used to facilitate remote hearings is now well-established, with significant improvements made in terms of functionality to better suit the needs of remote hearings,” Khatchadourian explained.
According to Khatchadourian, arbitral tribunals will need to consider a number of factors when deciding on whether to hold remote or in-person hearings.
These factors include the nature of the evidence and whether an in-person hearing would assist with the resolution of the dispute, the size and complexity of the dispute, technological considerations, time zone considerations, and any justifiable concerns regarding witness tampering, Khatchadourian noted.
“Meanwhile, many arbitration institutions, if not all, recorded a growth in caseload last year, demonstrating that recourse to institutional arbitration is being preferred. This means that one institution’s gain or success is not necessarily another’s loss.
“A healthy competition between the arbitration institutions is necessary for continuous improvement, but it could also be wise to co-operate in some circumstances. A combination of both may develop the best conditions for international institutional arbitration to excel as a legitimate means for dispute resolution,” Khatchadourian stressed.
QICCA board member for International Relations Sheikh Dr Thani bin Ali al-Thani also underscored the advantages of conducting remote hearings, saying technology helped the centre work on different cases last year.
In 2020, Sheikh Thani said QICCA received 27 requests for arbitration cases and two requests for conciliation cases, and settled commercial disputes worth QR425mn.
Sheikh Thani said the cases were related to different types of contracts in sectors, such as construction, commercial agency, insurance, communications, engineering, real estate brokerage, sales and supply, and financing.