Authored by - Chloé Matar, Research Intern at MediateGuru
The Arab Gulf Countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are undergoing rapidly growing and diversifying economies. Therefore, law and dispute-resolution mechanisms play a critical role in supporting the emergence of more competitive business sectors. Being a region with a diverse range of legal systems, reflecting the different cultural and religious influences in the area, there has been a growing interest in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the Middle East, as governments and businesses seek more efficient and effective solutions.
1. Legal Framework for ADR in Different Middle Eastern Countries
The legal framework for ADR Regime in the Middle East varies from country to country, but some general trends can be observed:
1.1.Dedicated ADR Laws and Regulations
UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and many more countries have adopted dedicated ADR laws and regulations. These laws and regulations typically specify the different types of ADR regulations available, the procedures that must be followed, and the enforceability of ADR outcomes. Such as the United Arab Emirates Arbitration Law , the Saudi Arabia Arbitration Law and the Oman Arbitration Law
1.2. Specialized ADR Institutions
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have developed institutions for resolving civil and commercial disputes These institutions typically provide mediation, arbitration, and other ADR services. Like the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre and the Dubai International Arbitration Centre
1.3. International ADR Conventions
Many Middle Eastern countries are parties to international ADR conventions, UAE and Qatar are parties of the New York Convention or Kuwait and Saudi Arabia who signed the Singapore Convention On the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules provide a set of procedural rules to conduct arbitral proceedings arising out of their commercial relationships. This makes it easier for international businesses to enforce arbitral awards in the Middle East.
2. Challenges of ADR in the Middle East
One major obstacle to mediation in the Middle East is the lack of uniformity in ADR laws and regulations across the Middle East. Each country has its own laws and regulations. For instance, the ADGM Courts apply English common law to all cases that come before them while Saudi Arabia is currently in the process of drafting its arbitration laws.
Another challenge to mediation in the Middle East is that many people in the region are not familiar with the concept and are hesitant to adopt it. Especially in the areas where access to legal information and resources may be limited.
In addition, there are very few active and trained mediators in the region and there is a lack of confidence in the mediator’s ability to render impartial decisions
3. Countries Leading Practitioners of ADR in the Middle East
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have developed institutions for resolving civil and commercial disputes through adjudication, arbitration, or mediation:
● In Qatar, we find the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC) specializes in resolving civil and commercial disputes. The Qatar International Center for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) is also established to handle such matters. QICCA in Qatar has adopted both the UNCITRAL Arbitration and Conciliation Rules for its proceedings.
● Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration (SCCA), which administers civil and commercial disputes, fostering partnerships with international bodies. The SCCA in Saudi Arabia has also adopted the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules but utilizes the AAA-ICDR Mediation Rules for mediation.
● The UAE, hosts the Abu Dhabi Global Market(ADGM) and the Dubai International Arbitration Centre(DIAC), provides substantial alternative dispute resolution resources. The UAE has adopted the Federal Arbitration Law, that is based on UNCITRAL Model Law.
4. Use of Different ADR Methods in Different Sectors and Its Effectiveness in Resolving Disputes in the Middle East
4.1. Different Adopted ADR Methods
ADR has seen significant inroads in the region. Arbitration has tended to dominate, but greater attention has been given to mediation recently. In addition to these traditional forms of ADR, the Middle East is also seeing the emergence of new forms of ADR, such as online dispute resolution (ODR) and hybrid ADR. ODR is a process in which ADR proceedings are conducted online, using tools such as email, video conferencing, and online mediation platforms. Hybrid ADR is a process that combines two or more different types of ADR, such as mediation and arbitration. This is the case at arbitral centers such as the international courts. For instance, QCAA quickly adapted to the new circumstances and was able to conduct 80% of its arbitration cases between April-December 2020 online. QICCA has also been actively engaged in promoting a conversation about the need to facilitate online arbitration.
4.2. Effectiveness of ADR in Resolving Disputes in the Middle East
Overall, the Middle East is a region that is increasingly embracing ADR as a way to resolve disputes. The use of ADR offers several benefits, including efficiency, confidentiality, and flexibility. Both Qatar and the UAE have taken steps to encourage the use of arbitration and mediation. For example, The DIFC Courts have established a joint venture with the Arbitration Institute (DAI) and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) to create the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre, which has its own arbitration rules and administers arbitral proceedings. Mediation emphasizes reconciliation and relationship preservation, particularly important in a region where parties often have personal or cultural ties. It offers a quicker resolution compared to the often overburdened legal system, reducing delays and procedural requirements.
5. Future Outlook of ADR in the Region
The future outlook for ADR in the Middle East is positive. Governments in the region are increasingly recognizing the benefits of ADR, such as reducing the burden on courts and providing businesses with more efficient and speedy dispute resolution. Consequently, the use of ADR is expected to continue to rise in the Middle East in the coming years.
ADR is a growing field in the Middle East. Governments and businesses alike are recognizing its benefits and taking steps to promote its use. With the shift to digitization post-COVID-19 Advances in online dispute resolution (ADR) are a part of the developing legal systems in the gulf. This means new and innovative ways to resolve disputes using technology are being developed in the region.
Does the creative use of technology suggest that the region is positioning itself as a leader in the dispute-resolution field?
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) stated back in 2018 that The new Europe is the Middle East and they will be different in 5 years.
By itself, the use of technology within these institutions is unlikely to make the region a more appealing location for dispute resolution. Other factors, such as the cost and quality of legal services, will also play a role. However, this approach represents a further maturation of the region’s legal institutions and enhances its global reputation.
 Saudi Arabia Arbitration Law, Royal Decree No. M/39 of 2012, https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/106647/130941/F850258061/arbitration.pdf, last accessed 21 septembre 2023. Omani law Of Arbitration,https://www.international-arbitration-attorney.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Oman-Arbitration-Law.pdf, last accessed 21 septembre 2023. Parties of The new york convention, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Recognition_and_Enforcement_of_Foreign_Arbitral_Awards#Parties_to_the_Convention, last accessed 21 septembre 2023. The recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, (the new york convention), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Recognition_and_Enforcement_of_Foreign_Arbitral_Awards, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  The Singapore Convention, https://www.singaporeconvention.org/convention/text, last accessed 21 septembre 2023 The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, https://uncitral.un.org/en/texts/arbitration/contractualtexts/arbitration#:~:text=The%20UNCITRAL%20Arbitration%20Rules%20provide,as%20well%20as%20administered%20arbitrations, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  The QICDRC was established by QFC Law No. 2 of 2009 (Qatar), https://www.qicdrc.gov.qa/about-us/history, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  Qatar International Center for Conciliation and Arbitration: Rules of Conciliation and Arbitration, https://qicca.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/08/QICCA_Rules_Eng.pdf, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  Qatar International Center for Conciliation and Arbitration, Rules of Conciliation and Arbitration (1 May 2012)  About SCCA, https://sadr.org/about-scca?lang=en, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration, Arbitration Rules: Mediation Rules (October 2018)  About Abu Dhabi Global Market, ADGM, https://www.adgm.com/aboutadgm/overview, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  About DIAC, http://www.diac.ae/idias/aboutus/, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  UAE, Federal Law No. (6) of 2018 on Arbitration, https://www.tamimi.com/crm-media-uploader/fileupload/server/php/files/UAE%20Arbitration%20Law%20-%20Federal%20Law%20No%20%206%20of%202018.pdf, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  Experts call for cyber protocol for online arbitration in GCC webinar, https://qicca.org/6275, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  Arbitration in the Middle East: Expectations and Challenges for the Future, https://www.transnational-dispute-management.com/article.asp?key=2194, last accessed 21 septembre 2023  Sara Koleilat-Aranjo and Aishwarya Nair, Mediation in the Middle East: Before and After the Singapore Convention’ Al-Tammimi & Co (October 2019), https://www.tamimi.com/law-update-articles/mediation-in-the-middle-east-before-and-after-the-singapore-convention/ , last accessed 21 septembre 2023 QICDRC, ‘Qatar International Court Encourages use of eCourt’ , https://www.qicdrc.gov.qa/media-center/news/qatar-international-court-encouragesuse-ecourt QICDRC, ‘Innovative online hearing connects participants remotely during times of social distancing’ , https://www.qicdrc.gov.qa/mediacenter/news/innovative-online-hearing-connects-participants-remotely-during-timessocial, last accessed 21 septembre 2023 “ Saudi Crown Prince: The new Europe is the Middle East, even Qatar”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sE9xCDfuuU&t=12s, last accessed 21 septembre 2023