The Dubai International Financial Centre (DFCI) is quietly emerging as a dispute resolution forum of choice in international contracts involving companies based in the Middle East. The DFCI's location in one of the fastest-growing areas of the Middle East makes it an attractive option for transnational companies doing business in the region.
The DFCI is a relatively new institution that seeks to centralize the financial and commercial business of Dubai and the surrounding area. It was set up to promote growth and provide a central hub where companies can address their commercial and business needs.
As a part of this infrastructure, the DFCI also provides an independent court system featuring its own laws, which are mostly drawn from the common law that it has established and which defaults to English common law. The purpose of these courts is to "create an environment for growth, progress and economic development in the UAE and the wider region."
Judgments issued by the DFCI courts can be enforced in Dubai and the UAE, which provides peace of mind to litigants seeking to enforce their judgments in the region - a welcome change given the challenge of enforcing foreign-obtained judgments in Dubai. Moreover, treaties between Dubai and other Persian Gulf countries theoretically make enforcement of DFCI judgments applicable around the region.
Under Dubai law, the DFCI courts recently became empowered to hear cases brought before them by mutual agreement, meaning that companies can now execute contracts where the DFCI is chosen as the dispute resolution venue. There are already rumblings in the international legal community that, given the relative ease of enforcing DFCI judgments in many Gulf countries, this development will siphon off cases from London and other such traditional venues. Since resorting to the DFCI is now an option for private entities, the rising profile of its courts is worth watching.