JAMS ADR Blog by Chris Poole
Today’s post comes from Matthew Rushton, deputy managing director for JAMS International, the international arm of JAMS.
Some 1,200 miles off the coast of South Africa, east of Madagascar, is the island of Mauritius. With just 800 square miles of land and a population of 1.2 million, one might be forgiven for overlooking the significance of the country’s recent push into ADR. While principally known as a tourist destination, its first-class transport infrastructure, stable government and Commonwealth status make it an attractive destination for commercial dispute resolution.
The opening of the Mauritius Mediation Centre in June 2011 marked the latest in the country’s efforts to promote ADR domestically and in particular within the region. According to Edwin Glasgow QC, a recent visitor to Mauritius and a panellist with JAMS International, demand for ADR services in the region has grown as a result of a sequence of recent political initiatives by the South African government, and their unintended consequences.
Confidence in South Africa’s civil justice infrastructure has been decreasing as certain discrimination policies have created a generation of judges who, under Apartheid, were unfortunately denied involvement in commercial cases. While Glasgow views the judges as “very bright and capable of handling any case given the necessary experience,” parties with complex cases have begun boycotting the courts in favour of arbitration.
To counter this trend, South Africa’s ruling government party has sought to limit the growth in arbitration by requiring former judges to seek written approval to sit as arbitrators from the Attorney General. It is believed that although hundreds of former judges have applied, approvals had not yet been granted and those judges who wish to sit as arbitrators without approval risk losing their pension. While the move was intended to channel parties back into the court system, the result has been to push alternative dispute resolution offshore.
Given South Africa’s status as one of the five BRICS countries (an international political organization of leading emerging economies, which also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China), to whom the world is now turning as a possible driver of economic growth, the potential of the market in Mauritius is substantial. It will be interesting to see how the country maintains its own local involvement as other ADR organizations have taken an interest in the developing area.
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