The MARC Made Its Mark With Mauritius Arbitration Week 2019.
Legal News & Analysis - Asia Pacific - Mauritius - Dispute Resolution
9 August, 2019
Mauritius Arbitration Week (“MAW”) just wrapped up a successful five days of panels, live Q&A’s, breakfast briefings, networking lunches, and a charity ball, and it’s safe to say that the MCCI Mauritius Arbitration and Mediation center (“MARC”) made its mark with the second installment of MAW.
There are a number of arbitration conferences across the globe and throughout the year, but this one truly set itself apart from all the others. The first and the most obvious, it’s set on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean, the first two days of which had as the backdrop a picturesque sun and the white sandy beaches at the Westin Turtle Bay and Intercontinental Hotels. Beyond that and to the more substantive of reasons, there is a need in the realm of global investments and international arbitration along the Indian Ocean that both Mauritius and the MARC are uniquely positioned to fulfil, and the conference brought together the right people to showcase the demand and the opportunities that coincide with it.
Moreover, the week offered guests a truly a global experience having attendees from Mauritius, Reunion, Somalia, Kenya, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, UK, France, Singapore, and China. A feat that should not go unrecognized given the fact it was only the second edition of MAW. The conference kicked off with a full day of panels in English on day one and then new panels in French on day two and included sessions for Arbitral Women and organizations such as AfricArb.
In addition, prominent lawyers as speakers are par for course in legal conferences, and what was truly apparent was that the week featured a wide array of astute international dispute resolution lawyers who are dedicated to the Mauritian cause to becoming a hub for arbitration and to seeing the rise of the MARC. Among them was none other than “the father of Hong Kong arbitration”, Neil Kaplan QC, who serves as a mentor to the leadership and as the Head of the MARC Court.
Mauritius: A Bridge between Africa and Asia
‘Mauritius: A Bridge between Africa and Asia,’ was both the theme and the message that the organizers wanted every attendee to walk away with. The theme came to bear given the abundance of interest and opportunity in Africa among Asian investors. It was apropos given the current status of Mauritius and the World Bank’s 2018 ranking of it being in the top 20 global list for the ease of doing business. With political instability and underdeveloped, young legal infrastructure in some places in continental Africa, Mauritius offers a safe, dependable place to structure investments through, inspiring investor confidence with its stable government, mature legal infrastructure, and positive economy.
As Duncan Bagshaw, Partner at Howard Kennedy in London and Member of the MARC Advisory Board notes, “Mauritius has been a financial center for the flow of funds between India, Africa, Europe, and other parts of the world for many years, and it has developed itself into a stable and reliable center for financial matters. Thus, it’s only natural that it can be a stable, reliable center for legal matters as well. And because of where it is geographically and culturally, it acts perfectly as a bridge between the two regions of the world. It is an African country, a member of regional trade and diplomatic blocks, but culturally it has a very mixed population, which is a blend of African, European, and Asian.”
Thus, the premise of the theme both identifies the need for a secure way to invest in Africa and the opportunity that Mauritius and international dispute resolution lawyers have in fulfilling it.
The MARC as a Premier Arbitration Center
The MARC, the organizers of MAW, has an interesting history having first opened its doors in 1996 and then was re-envisioned with new vigor, leadership and endeavors in 2017. The MARC’s renewed structure is built to compete with the best of international and domestic arbitral institutions complete with a new set of governing rules, oversight mechanisms, a MARC Court, an Advisory Board, and a highly qualified, independent panel of arbitrators and mediators.
The new 2018 rules were carefully crafted to make the MARC an attractive arbitration venue. “We have drawn heavily on the experience of Hong Kong and to some extent Singapore because there is no point in reinventing the wheel, but we have added a lot of new provisions such as an opt-in appeal procedure, blind appointments to stop unconscious bias, and we made a very important rule that says the arbitration award shall be succinct. The MARC has everything in place that it needs to have,” according to Mr. Neil Kaplan QC.
Cheng-Yee Khong, Associate Investment Manager and Head of IMF Bentham Hong Kong and Member of the MARC Court, also commented on the value of the new rules, “The rules are heavily inspired by the rules of the top arbitral institutions worldwide such as the ICC, SIAC, and the HKIAC, among other institutions. They contain a suite of tools that reflect the best international practices. They promote efficiency, cost effectiveness, and give the arbitral tribunal more power to craft the arbitration to best suit the case at hand.”
The MARC Court, guided by Kaplan and comprised of 14 other notable experts in arbitration, was established to render decisions on jurisdiction and to act as the decision maker regarding challenges to arbitrators and procedures. “We’ve set up a court and the membership of the court is full of distinguished people from Lord Neuberger, former judge of the UK Supreme Court, and Mr. Harish Salve, former Solicitor General of India, among many others. Anyone who comes to MARC will know that the whole process will be overseen by a completely independent and able court,” says Kaplan.
Further evidencing its commitment to becoming the premier destination for alternative dispute resolution in the Indian Ocean and Africa and with a view to developing and elevating the MARC’s reputation, relevancy, and posterity, an Advisory Board was constituted in 2017, which is chaired by Ms. Sarah Grimmer, who also serves as the Secretary-General of Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. Every member of the Advisory Board is dedicated to seeing it become the go-to arbitration center in Africa. Dr. Jalal El Ahdab, Vice President of the MARC Advisory Board, partner and Head of Arbitration Department at Bird & Bird in France, best expresses the sentiment that seemed to be shared among most at MAW, “MARC is indeed becoming the inevitable platform to host arbitration in an island which is imposing itself as a unique, stable, bilingual, common law and civil law country, at the crossroad of the belt and road initiative and as the rising interface between Africa and Asia. If you have not heard of Mauritius as an arbitration venue, you will because it is meant to become one with great ambitions.”