Experts at a webinar organised by BIAC and THAC insist on confidentiality protocol in arbitration proceedings to regulate the New Normal

Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC), the first and only registered Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) institution of the country organised its 16th webinar from a virtual platform on 14 September 2021 on ‘’Confidentiality: Does Arbitration Need a Protocol to Regulate the New Normal?’’, jointly with its partner organisation Thailand Arbitration Center (THAC), an institution that provides ADR services, comprising of arbitration and mediation for cross-border disputes. As part of its International ADR Webinar Series 2021 themed ‘’Managing Disputes in an Uncertain World’’, THAC arranged the session in collaboration with BIAC.

In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, various irreversible modifications have been made in our lives. The field of ADR has also been affected by the pandemic and changes have occurred. ADR proceedings are moving online and protocols for virtual hearings have been proposed and new virtual platforms have been launched. Moreover, all social events, due to social distancing, have been converted to webinars. These changes can be summarised as New Normal in the ADR field. This webinar aimed to discuss the changes that occurred since the pandemic started, new developments introduced, the rise of consequences of the New Normal and the future opportunities in the field of ADR.
Barrister Ajmalul Hossain, QC, Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb), renowned Arbitrator of the region and Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, who also practices from Selborne Chambers, London, moderated the webinar.
Panellists who took part in the discussion on behalf of BIAC were Mr. Mohammad Shahidul Haque, former Senior Secretary, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division, Government of Bangladesh and Dr. Rumana Islam, Professor of Law, University of Dhaka. Panellists nominated by THAC were Dr. Thanes Sucharikul, Director, Master of Laws Programme of the School of Law, Rangsit University, Thailand and Barrister Colin Wrights, Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb) and an eminent lawyer and Arbitrator of the region.
In his deliberations Mr. Mohammad Shahidul Haque, Panellist from BIAC and a former Senior Secretary of Bangladesh found agreeable substances and insights in favour of more use of virtual platforms in dealing with Arbitration cases both in Bangladesh and outside. Since the New Normal is broadly a development during the pandemic, a Standard Operating Procedure keeping consistency with standards already developed and practiced by different Arbitration centres may be adopted, which may be an way forward action for BIAC and Bangladesh and also for similar other centres, Mr. Haque opined.
Panellist from BIAC Dr. Rumana Islam, Professor of Law, University of Dhaka in course of her deliberations observed that with all the virtual arbitration and the flurry of initiatives to facilitate this and adapted new proceedings to address the challenges imposed by the pandemic, the New Normal is rapidly becoming just Normal and we have to continue this New Normal as normal for next few years. Therefore we need to be better equipped with it, Dr. Islam maintained.
THAC nominated Panellist Dr. Thanes Sucharikul took part in the discussion and said that the problems of confidentiality in online arbitration are practical and technical. The actual protection of online arbitration confidentiality is a matter of software and IT technicality, rather than arbitration legality, he insisted. Dr. Sucharikul advocated for choosing appropriate means for online arbitration, such as, Microsoft teams, WebEx, Zoom etc.
Barrister Colin Wrights, Panellist from THAC in his observations emphasised coordinated steps by arbitration institutions to frame new rules upholding confidentiality of the proceedings in the New Normal, for that matter, virtual arbitration sessions. He advised that all clouds on video conferences should be password protected and locations of all participating parties should be mutually agreed upon and circulated to the parties and the arbitration tribunal.
Mr. Muhammad A. (Rumee) Ali, Chief Executive Officer of BIAC, Mr. M A Akmall Hossain Azad, Director, BIAC and Ms. Thunpicha Rungcheewin, Marketing Executive, THAC also attended the webinar.