New ADGM arbitration centre to be launched

Facility to include first International Chamber of Commerce Mena office

The new arbitration centre will open early next year on Maryah Island.
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Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the emirate’s financial free zone, has unveiled a landmark new arbitration hearing centre for the capital, alongside a significant agreement with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), one of the world’s most prominent commercial dispute resolution institutions, marking a significant addition to the country’s legal infrastructure.

“This is a very positive development for the UAE’s strategy and vision aiming to promote the consolidation of the rule of law and uphold the country’s position as one of the strongest global leaders in international dispute resolution,” said the UAE’s Minister of Justice Sultan Al Badi. The opening of the arbitration centre “demonstrates the UAE’s significant progress in realising its vision”.

The ADGM Arbitration Centre would be established on Maryah Island by early 2018, according to a statement from the financial free zone yesterday.

The new centre, available to all parties worldwide, will be accompanied by a representative office of the ICC Court, which will open in January, also located on Maryah Island.


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Legal professionals in the UAE described the establishment of the new arbitration centre, and the opening of the ICC Court’s first Middle Eastern representative office, as highly important for the capital’s legal infrastructure.

“It’s a very significant move, as the ICC is in my experience the most commonly specified international arbitration body in Middle Eastern contracts,” said Craig Shepherd, the Dubai-based dispute resolution partner with Herbert Smith Freehills.

“Psychologically, it makes all the difference in the world to have the ICC signing a partnership with ADGM, even if their physical presence is minimal.”

The ICC Court, headquartered in Paris, has administered disputes in a total of 23,000 international, commercial, business and investment arbitration cases since 1923. It is widely used in international transactions in the Middle East.

“Based on client feedback, we believe there will be significant market demand for an international arbitration centre in Abu Dhabi,” said Thomas Snider, a partner and the head of arbitration at Al Tamimi & Company.

“We applaud ADGM on taking the initiative to establish the centre and welcome the ICC’s establishment of a representative office here in the UAE, both of which will strengthen the UAE’s international arbitration infrastructure.”

The new centre will provide an alternative dispute resolution option to the onshore Abu Dhabi Commercial Conciliation and Arbitration Centre (ADCCAC) within Abu Dhabi.

ADGM’s new arbitration centre will operate under the free zone’s arbitration framework, based on the Uncitral Model Law, often considered the international standard for dispute resolutions. ADCCAC, by contrast, operates under UAE onshore legislation, which has no modern arbitration law beyond a series of articles relating to the practice contained within the country’s civil code.


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“The ICC already has a much stronger reputation in Abu Dhabi than ADCCAC has, so this new centre could suck a lot of business from them,” said one UAE-based lawyer who asked not to be named.

ADGM’s agreement with the ICC comes nine years after its international rival, the London Court of International Arbitration, entered into a joint venture with the DIFC in 2008, which offers dispute resolution services alongside the Dubai International Arbitration Centre.