Dear Arbitrators, Mediators and Adjudicators,
Welcome to Malta and wishing you all a pleasant stay.
Of course, your objective to visit Malta is to debate matters of interest and listen to presentations in dispute resolution practice, primarily in your respective fields of expertise, and with particular emphasis to the construction industry.
It is thus pertinent for me to begin my speech stating the obvious—that the construction industry, whether in the UK, Malta, or within the European economy, plays an important role as it generates millions of jobs worldwide, it assists in creating jobs in ancillary businesses, and is a significant consumer of raw materials and services, thereby the construction sector impacts various sectors of a country’s economy. The construction industry, just like other areas of business, has become more internationalised, has witnessed a plethora of regulation in energy efficient initiatives, greenhouse gas emission reduction objectives, and health and safety regulations—which, although commendable, have undoubtedly increased costs and have added further complications to players within the industry to penetrate new markets and to decrease their risks and vulnerability to international market changes.
In conjunction with these ongoing legislative developments, political upheavals like Brexit bear influence on decisions taken by commercial enterprises that affect several operators and their respective workforce, having a direct or indirect connection to the construction industry in general.
Likewise, alternative types of dispute resolutions—whether conciliation, mediation or arbitration—are not a sheltered industry and are in a constant state of flux that needs to adjust to the ever changing political, social, and economic worldwide developments, in order to continue burgeoning and becoming more relevant to commercial enterprises, businessmen, and people in general. Alternative dispute resolutions need to adapt and change to continue to remain relevant.
Sir Winston Churchill once said that, “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see”.A conference of this nature stimulates discussion between professionals within the industry such as your good selves, and ideas are born and principles are refined, in order to seek how to further improve alternative dispute resolutions and their services—not least by providing patrons and businesses with the tools, methods, and solutions to further seek the services of mediators, arbitrators and conciliators.
I would also like to challenge your good selves in this regard and as Minister for Justice. I am also a firm believer that alternative dispute resolutions can be further inviting to the ultimate beneficiaries of these services. If one thinks outside the box and becomes more sensitive to their respective concerns—not least in making procedures less formal, allowing for technological developments such as video conferencing to be widely applied by parties to these resolutions, assessing costs and (not increasing them), allowing for further legal certainty especially in adopting UNCITRAL Model Law rules, and limitedly restricting public policy exceptions in international agreements, so that patrons to these dispute resolutions can enforce decisions (in arbitrations) without added concerns that decisions remain solely decisions on paper and cannot be enforced.
These are just food for thought, and I wish to conclude that Malta and England also have a lot to offer and a lot to gain in this area of law, if we seek to actively cooperate further in this regard, both as members of the Commonwealth and as countries that have much in common historically and politically.
This is also food for thought that we should engender and seek to maximise our services towards people in general that require such alternative dispute resolution services.
The English poet John Donne stated, “No man is an island”, and how realistic these words are in the 21st century.