Magazine article International Trade Forum

Dispute Resolution Managers Meet for First Time

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Dispute Resolution Managers Meet for First Time

Article excerpt

In a worldwide first, ITC brought together managers of new and well-established arbitration and mediation centres to discuss the challenges of running a centre. They left with new ideas to tackle common problems as well as new training and cooperation initiatives.

Bringing business disputes to court takes time and money, and may be too much in the public eye. Even though arbitration and mediation centres can offer firms a faster, confidential solution, they have their own problems, particularly in developing economies.

To address common operational issues, ITC brought together more than 60 directors of centres from 50 developing and developed countries at a Symposium on Strengthening Commercial Arbitration and Mediation Services (Chamonix, France, September 2004). Some of the world's foremost institutions in the field were present, including the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

New centres, especially in developing economies, benefited from the experience of well-established institutions in the efficient management of commercial disputes. Experienced centres could evaluate fresh ideas.

High demand for services

The sheer volume of cases in an era of increased trade is an important factor in operating a centre. South Africa's Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration - the most outstanding example - has settled some 340,000 cases since January 2000 and handles 500 cases on a daily basis. The caseload shows that case managers need excellent organizational skills, on a par with their knowledge of arbitration.

Often, however, there are few trained staff available for the secretariats, not to mention for the pool of arbitrators. To survive, centres cannot rely just on providing arbitration or mediation services, but also have to engage in training. Creating an association for young lawyers, especially women, has helped Germany's institution boost numbers of trained arbitrators.

Changing mindsets

Managers also stressed the diplomatic and awareness-building skills required of them. Centres have to network with the "traditional" legal profession, from legislators to court officials, to raise awareness of their services. Participants learned that such efforts have paid off in the United Kingdom, where the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution now receives referrals through the court system.

Various centres explained how they are working to raise the profile of arbitration and mediation services with the business sector. Most are linked with the national chamber of commerce.

Practices to build visibility and confidence range from using experienced foreign arbitrators when starting up a centre, to providing free services to small firms that cannot afford the costs of a trial to organizing activities such as conferences.

Specializing in solving the disputes of particular sectors or industries - from consumer disputes to construction and sports - is also an effective way to build a solid client base.

From competition to collaboration

Another recurring challenge is competing for business with other centres in one country. In Latvia, for instance, over 100 centres offer dispute resolution services. Participants proposed two solutions to this problem. Centres can merge, as happened in neighbouring Lithuania. Another approach, adopted by the 25 new centres in Argentina and six in Switzerland, is harmonization. …

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