The coronavirus outbreak is a pandemic according to thee Wolrd Health Organization (WHO), there is growing concern over the global impact of this pathogen. The virus is rapidly evolving and crashing the economies of countries across the world. With the number of cases increasing with every passing day, the death tolls shooting up, and businesses shutting down, it’s utter chaos out there.
One can without an iota of doubt say that nations will take a long time from now to recover from this outbreak! The virus has left its impact on the life of every individual, business, and part of the world. International Arbitration stands no exception too.
The future of Arbitration
It is difficult to anticipate how it will affect international Arbitration as the pandemic plays out. The future remains mostly uncertain as this is a novel situation. However, there is no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak is already transforming the field! That’s because the virus is changing the way businesses operate by making it impossible for face-to-face interaction. International arbitration practices are on halt in South Korea, China, Singapore, Japan, Asia, Europe, the US, and the UK. Aside from quarantines, travel bans have also come into effect.
Arbitration hearing has been disrupted, without witnesses from other countries, or are experiencing delays. Most arbitration practitioners are considering certain places unsafe for conducting arbitration hearings. The reason for this is, most parts of the world are now COVID-19 hotspots and thus have a travel restriction.
Arbitrators are avoiding hosting delegations from affected areas. Practitioners in affected areas do not wish to impose on others, as well. Almost all arbitration facilities have adopted strict precautionary measures against the virus, like the use of protective gear in office settings and postponement of hearings. Another concern is that some parties may use the outbreak as an advantage to unnecessarily cause delays in arbitration dealings.
Arbitration Amidst Social Distancing
The arbitration process happens differently during the pandemic. Handshakes are now a thing of the past, and people instead greet with elbow bumps, bows, and other gestures. Videoconferencing technology is a booming market as the online business activity becomes the norm across all sectors. In Arbitration, evidentiary hearings are also happening online with remote participants. This presents a good turning point in the world of Arbitration for an online dispute resolution component entering the industry.
Digitization of Arbitration
The pandemic is also changing the gathering, creating, and transmitting of evidence. The paper documents that are produced in person are now sent via a courier or a mail.
Reliability on digital signatures and digital transmission of documents are increasing to avoid contagion spread. Document searches, production, and reviews are happening digitally. Arbitrators are moving away from hard-copy document submissions and evidentiary bundles, and those who are willing to operate digitally are progressing. This increase in digital solutions is a good foundation for the implementation of artificial intelligence as well as other modern technologies.
The outbreak of cases in the post-pandemic phase
After the pandemic passes, the arbitration industry can expect a rush of new claims involving a variety of sectors. Commercial delays, cancellations, and disruptions in the construction industry and the manufacturing industry is bound to happen. Complaints relating to shipping and international transit are likely. Similarly, claims around the delay or cancellation of shipments of components will also follow suit. Many claims will erupt from the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and biotechnology sectors arising from their efforts to fight the outbreak. Data privacy claims will undoubtedly rise as will insurance claims across industries.
One can, without a doubt, say that the world can contain the spread of COVID – 19 only through the support of global citizens and the health sector. This means every individual, organization, country, should enforce the necessary precautions. When the nations manage to contain the virus, life will restore to normalcy.
In Arbitration, this includes efficient arbitral proceedings taking place via videoconferencing and with remote facilities. Arbitrators have to rely on various technologies to resolve disputes. In conclusion, one can say that irrespective of the outcome of this pandemic, it has and will continue to change the arbitration sector. The pandemic is shaping the arbitration sector and many other industries, and it will emerge differently from what it was before the outbreak. In other words, this is a time to say goodbye to Arbitration as we know it and to expect new doors to open in the field.