Dr. Ismail Selim, Director of CRCICA, presented the main aspects of the institution's work that was recently appraised in a report prepared by the African Development Bank. He further discussed Egypt as seat of arbitration, providing insights from his many years in legal practice (as arbitrator, counsel and former judge). The presentation started with the main features and composition of CRCICA, followed by the institution's history and development over the years. The centre is well established and managed through the international members of its board of trustees (who elect the director of the centre), the international members of its advisory committee (who decide on challenges of arbitrators, prima facie jurisdiction of the centre, fees, etc.) and the competent and diverse case management team. The effective management of the institution and its cases is key to support CRCICA's role in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: Many foreign parties choose CRCICA to settle disputes arising out of contracts in this region.
Dr. Selim discussed CRCICA's arbitration rules, which are based on the UNCITRAL Rules. They entail elements that are of great advantage to international parties, such as the freedom to choose the arbitrators, independent of the institution's panel of arbitrators which is used merely for reference, and the fact that arbitration in CRCICA is very cost-effective, for low- and high-cost disputes alike. The institution is well aware of the challenges of enforcement, and has experience in producing awards that are enforceable in various jurisdictions, whether by the New York Convention or the Convention of Riyadh. Besides arbitration, the institution also administers cases for mediation and dispute resolution through dispute boards.
In the end, Dr. Selim presented the African Development Bank's Assessment Reports on CRCICA from 2014 and 2022, which qualify the institution as "one of the best arbitration centres across the African continent". The reports further highlight the centre's professionalism, the high quality of the CRCICA Rules and the good language skills in Arabic, English and French. One of the key points that was mentioned in the report, and that was discussed by the participants during the event, is the arbitration friendly environment at the seat of the centre, namely in Cairo. The Cairo Court of Appeal has adopted a pro-arbitration approach, and against many misconceptions, Egypt is in fact a good option for the seat of arbitration. Dr. Selim also discussed the DIPCO case, that has caused considerable unrest in the international arbitration community. In the case the court held that an arbitral tribunal is not vested with the powers to decide on the validity of administrative decisions and annulled an arbitral award relating to a BOT agreement on that basis. Dr. Selim explained that the case was based on a peculiar set of facts and in no way represented a trend.
Overall, the event was filled with fruitful discussions about the MENA Region and its important ties to Germany. The participants were engaged in interesting discussions about the international arbitration scene and beyond.