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Bahamas aims at becoming international arbitration centre within five years

The Bahamas is uniquely positioned to become an international arbitration centre, employing the talents of the local legal profession. The Bahamas Chapter of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) is looking to make that a reality. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The newly established Bahamas Chapter of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) is setting its sights high–hoping to achieve branch status by the end of this year and transform The Bahamas into an international hub for dispute resolution within five years.

Chair of the CIArb Bahamas Chapter, Bertha Cooper-Rousseau, is optimistic about the organization’s future. “We have been building partnerships with the judiciary, policymakers and practitioners,” she says. “There is that partnership, that commitment. Now we have to see it implemented.”

The Chapter, which was launched in June 2010, offers training courses to all professionals wishing to become certified arbitrators. Cooper-Rousseau says all professionals can become arbitrators and is particularly keen to target engineers, accountants, quantity surveyors and contractors. Its first introductory course attracted 75 participants, and the organization is hoping more will get involved during a second round to be held before the end of the year.

“The response was very positive,” says Cooper-Rousseau. “We are going to have another set of introductory courses soon. We are poised to become a branch to allow The Bahamas to stand alone.”

Before The Bahamas Chapter, currently under the wing of the Caribbean branch, can become a branch in its own right it must meet certain requirements, including a minimum membership of 30. At present the Chapter’s membership is around half of that.

Arbitration is gaining ground as one of the most effective means of dispute resolution, offering parties the chance to resolve their difficulties without expensive and time-consuming litigation.

Capitalizing on this trend can be especially beneficial to The Bahamas, says Cooper-Rousseau. “The Bahamas, in terms of arbitration, has the unique potential to become a major hub, as we are known for financial services and in all contracts there are clauses that relate to the settlement of disputes,” she explains. “Arbitration compliments the commercial aspect of The Bahamas.”

In May 2010, the government passed the Arbitration Act 2010, which gives the country a legal framework for international commercial arbitration. According to Cooper-Rousseau, now that the legislation is in place, there must be a concerted effort to market the plans and draw international expertise to the country.

“Arbitration has to be marketed in the same way as financial services and tourism. If the financial sector can show we have a vibrant and reputable centre, and that it is respected internationally, it will hedge the financial services.”

CIArb stresses, however, that it is still at the early stages and the organization is working with both public and private sector bodies to establish the best of drawing together all the necessary elements such as training, infrastructure and regulation.

“Legislation creates the platform, but we need to introduce rules and marketing of the service here. That is where the institute comes in–for training and educating purposes,” explains Cooper-Rousseau.

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