Stable legal environments are critical for commerce; a functioning dispute resolution system plays a vital role in attracting investment. This is especially the case given the economic consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (SIFoCC) was created in 2017 to bring together commercial courts from around the world, to share best practices, and play its part in furthering the rule of law.
This March, SIFoCC held its third full meeting (virtually) bringing together the senior judiciary from around the globe. In total, 36 jurisdictions attended, from six continents. A key topic of discussion was how the legal world can and should leverage technology in a new world. The use of technology in the judicial system has long been on SIFoCC’s agenda, yet the global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated its importance. This has been felt globally.
SIFoCC’s success in convening judiciaries from around the world has given a unique view into how different countries are integrating technology into their legal systems.
A number of jurisdictions, including Astana International Financial Court and Abu Dhabi Global Markets Courts, have indicated that even before the pandemic, they had moved to being completely online, as most customers were international and sought increased accessibility with 24/7 technical support.
Brazil has leveraged the increased use of technology as a key way to address their substantial backlog. There have been gains in increased transparency.
Some countries have particularly reported how technology has advanced access to justice. There are some innovative actions, such as adding satellites into the Amazon area where there is poor internet access so that virtual hearings could take place while courts were closed due to the pandemic. Elsewhere, China reported that in 2020, 4.2 million cases were mediated online, which has decreased the volume of cases passing through the courts physically.
There is no telling what the future of the pandemic holds. Stability in the judicial sector will need to be maintained though as we navigate continued uncertainty. As economies emerge from the last year, they will need stable legal environments to attract much-needed investment.
Technology has clearly been at the heart of all responses to the pandemic and has been innovatively used across many judiciaries. SIFoCC and its members are excited to be bringing together these responses (see www.sifocc.org) and ensuring that, we are all learning and sharing ideas as we adapt to the new challenges we are facing.