Dubai approves DIFC Courts plan to help boost emirate’s role as global business hub

Dubai has approved a three-year plan for the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) courts aimed at strengthening the emirate’s position as a global center for business and finance.

This includes the establishment of a new digital economy court, dedicated departments for intellectual property rights, online courts with electronic capabilities, a new center for the deposit of wills, a system of management of digital wills and multilingual advisory services, said Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Chairman of DIFC, in a Tweeter on Sunday.

“Today we approved the new strategic work plan which serves to further inspire confidence that the DIFC tribunals will move forward to shape the new dynamics of global dispute resolution,” Sheikh Maktoum said.

“The strategic work plan is designed to actively support DIFC’s strategic goals and to launch a new era of legal technology infrastructure that meets today’s demands.”

The DIFC courts handled 747 cases in 2021, with the total value of claims reaching Dh6.1 billion ($1.66 billion), as it focuses on handling disputes related to the digital economy.

In December, the DIFC Courts created a special tribunal to deal with disputes related to the digital economy, with the aim of simplifying the process of resolving complex civil and commercial disputes within the emerging sector.

The digital economy contributes about 4.3% to the gross domestic product of the United Arab Emirates, which is equivalent to 100 billion dirhams, according to figures from the Dubai Chamber for the Digital Economy.

DIFC Courts’ new four-pillar plan calls for a comprehensive digital transformation through cutting-edge technologies to increase the efficiency of dispute resolution, the Executive Council has said.

“The rise of digital platforms, paperless processes and virtual hearings are now becoming the new reality. The expectations of the private sector increasingly demand the bold commitment of the public service,” said Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director of DIFC Courts.

“By combining a modern and flexible digital infrastructure with judicial and service excellence, DIFC Courts will continue to be the benchmark for international commercial courts.”

The new DIFC Courts plan includes 28 projects.

A new “hyper-connected” judicial network will be developed as well as advanced judicial procedures for better access to judicial services.

Under the plan, the new International Digital Economy Tribunal will focus on resolving disputes related to emerging technologies such as big data, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence and cloud services.

DIFC courts will also embrace end-to-end digital technology, ensuring court systems are smart, user-friendly and agile enough to keep pace with global commerce, the Executive Council said.

This “will bridge the barriers of language, borders, jurisdiction and currency,” he said.

“AI will reduce administrative burdens, help streamline case review methodology, create a realistic virtual presence, remove duplicate documents and free up time to undertake much more complex tasks.”

Future DIFC court research will cover the handling of disputes arising from private and public blockchain, with regulations and contract terms encoded in smart contracts.

The implications for cross-border data flows, digital and data governance, and ensuring information protection and security for business relationships that help drive the digital economy, are being explored.

The UAE is undertaking a series of measures to make it easier to do business in the country, attract foreign investment, attract highly skilled talent and create more jobs while diversifying its non-oil economy. He further eased visa rules, changed laws to allow 100% foreign ownership of businesses and moved to a Monday-Friday working week, in line with major international economies.

Updated: April 24, 2022, 12:51 p.m.

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