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Arbitration and Mediation in the UAE: A Forward-Looking Approach

The country has recently introduced some forward-looking reforms and initiatives in the areas of Arbitration and Mediation in the UAE that are worth knowing about. As someone interested in the legal and business landscape of the Middle East, you’ll want to keep up with how the UAE is enhancing its attractiveness for international companies and investors.

Arbitration in Dubai: An Overview of Recent Changes

Dubai has emerged as a leading centre for arbitration in the Middle East. In recent years, the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) has made several changes to strengthen Dubai’s position as a preferred seat of arbitration.

DIAC updated its Arbitration Rules in 2007, making them more in line with international best practices. Some of the key changes included provisions for joinder of third parties, consolidation of arbitrations, and the power of the tribunal to grant interim measures. In 2016, DIAC again amended its Rules to clarify several procedural issues and further enhance efficiency.

The Dubai Arbitration Law

In 2018, Dubai enacted a new Arbitration Law based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. The new law provides for greater party autonomy and limits the grounds on which courts can annul arbitral awards. It also establishes DIAC as an independent body and confirms DIAC’s authority to administer arbitrations under its own Rules or other institutional rules like those of the ICC and LCIA.

Overall, the recent changes strengthen Dubai’s legal framework for arbitration and affirm its status as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction. The laws provide parties a high degree of flexibility and control over the arbitral process while limiting court intervention. Combined with Dubai’s state-of-the-art hearing facilities, multicultural environment, and geographic position, these developments solidify Dubai’s position as the pre-eminent seat of arbitration in the Middle East.

Key Updates to UAE Arbitration Laws and Regulations

The UAE has taken major steps recently to establish itself as a hub for arbitration and mediation. Some of the key updates to laws and regulations include:

Streamlining Process of arbitration

The UAE enacted Federal Law No. 6 of 2018 on Arbitration (“Arbitration Law”) which replaced the previous arbitration chapter of the UAE Civil Procedure Code. The new law is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law and aims to streamline the arbitration process. It covers enforcement of arbitral awards and arbitrator immunity, and gives parties more flexibility in choosing procedures.

Introducing Mediation

In 2018, the UAE also introduced Federal Law No. 17 on Mediation for Civil and Commercial Disputes (“Mediation Law”) to formally recognize mediation. The law provides a framework for mediation and enforceability of mediated settlement agreements. Parties in a dispute now have the option to mediate before going through litigation or arbitration.

Establishing Free Zones for Dispute Resolution

Free zones like the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) have their own courts and dispute resolution authorities. The DIFC Courts, for example, introduced new arbitration and mediation rules aligned with international best practices. These free zones are attracting more businesses and legal practitioners, further cementing the UAE as a centre for dispute resolution.

With a forward-looking legal framework and world-class infrastructure, the UAE is poised to become a leading hub for resolving commercial disputes through arbitration, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The recent updates have certainly paved the way.

The Growth of Mediation for Dispute Resolution in the UAE

The UAE has long been a centre for business and trade, so it’s no surprise that dispute resolution has also become an important industry. In recent years, mediation has emerged as an alternative to litigation and arbitration for resolving commercial disputes.

The Growth of Mediation in the UAE

In 2015, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) launched the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre to administer arbitrations and mediations. The following year, the DIFC established a mediation wing to specifically promote mediation for dispute resolution. These moves highlighted the growing interest in mediation among businesses and legal professionals in Dubai and the wider UAE.

Some of the benefits of mediation for companies in the UAE include:

  • Cost and time savings. Mediation is typically faster and less expensive than litigation or arbitration. This can reduce legal costs and minimize business disruption.
  • Flexibility. The mediation process is private and confidential, and parties have more flexibility in crafting a settlement. Creative win-win solutions are more likely.
  • Preservation of relationships. Mediation is less adversarial, allowing parties to settle disputes while maintaining ongoing business relationships and partnerships.
  • Enforcement of outcomes. Settlements reached through mediation can be recorded as consent orders and enforced like a court judgment under UAE law.

The UAE’s modern legal and business infrastructure, along with initiatives promoting mediation, have fuelled its increased use for commercial dispute resolution.

Dubai as an International Hub for Arbitration

Dubai has emerged as a leading hub for international arbitration in the Middle East. Its world-class infrastructure, business-friendly environment, and strategic location have attracted major global companies and law firms. Recognizing the importance of dispute resolution for business and investment, Dubai has taken several steps to strengthen its position as an arbitration centre.


The Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) opened in 1994 to administer arbitration cases in Dubai. The DIAC Arbitration Rules are based on the UNCITRAL Model Law and Arbitration Rules. The DIAC provides state-of-the-art hearing facilities and administrative support for arbitral proceedings in Dubai.


In 2008, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) partnered with the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) to establish the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre. The DIFC-LCIA Rules are modelled on the LCIA Rules, which are commonly used in international commercial arbitration. The DIFC-LCIA allows parties to resolve disputes through arbitration in an internationally recognized centre based in Dubai.

Recent Developments

Recent legislative changes demonstrate Dubai’s commitment to developing its arbitration framework. In 2016, the Judicial Tribunal for the DIFC Courts was established to determine challenges and appeals of DIFC Court and DIFC-LCIA arbitration awards. In 2018, the DIAC launched a new version of the DIAC Arbitration Rules. The new rules provide for expedited arbitration procedures, interim relief measures, and emergency arbitrator provisions. They also introduce more flexibility in arbitral proceedings.

With world-class arbitration institutions, a supportive legal framework, and a pro-business environment, Dubai is poised to become the preeminent seat of arbitration in the Middle East. Parties seeking to resolve commercial disputes through arbitration will find Dubai an attractive venue. Whether opting for the DIAC, DIFC-LCIA or ad hoc arbitration, Dubai offers parties and arbitrators efficient rules and procedures as well as cutting-edge facilities to conduct arbitral proceedings.


That brings us to the end of our look at the exciting developments happening in the alternative dispute resolution space in the UAE. Dubai and the wider UAE should be commended for their vision and ambition in establishing world-class arbitration and mediation centres. As a global hub for business and trade, having robust and trusted mechanisms for resolving disputes is crucial. It seems the relevant authorities recognize this and are taking the necessary steps to ensure the UAE remains an attractive place for companies and investors to do business.

For you as a business leader, executive or entrepreneur operating in the region, this is extremely positive news. You now have access to high quality, efficient and cost-effective options to resolve any commercial disputes that may arise. The days of lengthy, expensive court proceedings are numbered. The future is alternative, and the future is bright. Keep an eye on the Dubai International Arbitration Centre and Dubai International Financial Centre; exciting things are happening.

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