The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators has released guidelines for remote dispute resolution proceedings in view of the lockdown in some states and indeed some countries across the globe.
The institute in a statement signed by its chairman, Mr Olatunde Busari, noted that the COVID-19 global pandemic had severely affected personal and professional lives of people worldwide, necessitating the imposition of strict, constraining measures on their natural and legal persons, which has resulted in often injurious repercussions to business relationships.
While noting that it is the duty of all to cooperate with WHO advisory/guidelines, and various Federal and state government directives while the world seeks to find a solution to the pandemic, the body stated that resolving disputes by alternative dispute resolution procedures should not be hindered as parties can resolve to work remotely notwithstanding the circumstances in the majority of cases.
It averred that businesses should not be burdened by unresolved disputes due to the inability of parties to meet physically to conduct proceedings aimed at resolving their disputes.
The body then assured that the guidelines which it just released are to reassure disputing parties that they can still use remote procedures for full resolution of their disputes while maintaining the gold standard that the institute is reputed for worldwide.
“CIArb offers this Guidance Note on Remote Dispute Resolution Proceedings to provide parties to existing and future disputes, as well as neutrals, a guide for conducting proceedings in any circumstance where parties to the dispute are unable to meet physically. This guidance note is intended to be broadly applicable to the current 2020 global health crisis and well beyond. This guidance note is intended to be taken into consideration to help participants in arranging remote procedures. The guidance note relies on related existing practices and scholarly writings produced before and after the 2020 pandemic and is in no way a definitive work,” the body stated.
The body stated further that “the guidance note is intended for use in conjunction with and adjusted to any governmental and arbitral institutions’ advice with reference to any dealings during the COVID-19 pandemic or other circumstance that prevents physical meetings and any laws applicable, including public policy provisions of the possible place(s) of enforcement.”
It, however, warned that “where travel bans and severe government restrictions become more widespread, parties and neutrals should immediately express any concerns regarding their participation in pending proceedings to their neutrals, co-neutrals, and case managers and discuss possible schedule or procedural amendments, in particular the possibility of remote participation.”
As the COVID-19 rages on, the body stated that most dispute resolution providers will seek to employ audio and video conferencing for dispute resolution.
It, however, added that when such is used, Cybersecurity requirements would have been considered, agreed by parties and a record made. Technical support for all participants to the remote proceeding would have been arranged and a platform and procedure for transfer and storage of documentation has been agreed by parties and arranged.”
Other guidelines include: a list of attendees to the remote proceeding would have been circulated and agreed by parties. An order of appearance and timeline making consideration for specific needs of witnesses and for translation where necessary would have been circulated and agreed by parties. A list of documents to be presented by each party in the remote proceeding would have been distributed. Electronic bundles for use in presentation and in cross-examination have been prepared and distributed timeously.”
The body also gave further guidelines on dispute resolution if the option of audio and video conferencing is adopted. This is apart from several other guidelines which can be obtained from the organization’s website.