Law School Trains Iraqi Practitioners in Arbitration

Fall 2010

As part of Iraq’s efforts to rebuild its economy, 20 lawyers, engineers, and economists from the embattled country spent three days at Columbia Law School this past spring studying best practices for alternative dispute resolution.

In recent years, Iraq has begun issuing agreements with foreign investors concerning the country’s oil fields, and the process of building connections across borders prompted officials in that country to reach out for arbitration training in order to best facilitate those business relationships.

“In today’s world, arbitration has become a vehicle of enormous practical importance in terms of international dispute resolution,” said George A. Bermann, the Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law and the Walter Gellhorn Professor of Law. “Iraq is a war-torn country. It needs to make investors feel comfortable, and one of the ways you make investors feel comfortable is to agree that you will resolve disputes outside of your own courts.”

Iraqi officials wanted to learn alternative methods for dispute resolution, as well
as techniques that can help prevent conflicts from arising. With that request in
hand, the U.S. Commerce Department asked Bermann to help create the
customized program.

“What we’re trying to do is offer them choices, offer them expertise, and say, ‘This is what is happening in the international setting, and here’s what you can learn from it,’” said Stephen D. Gardner, chief counsel for the Commerce Department’s Commercial Law Development Program.

In the end, Bermann deemed the training a great success. “The participants from the ministry were extremely receptive, extremely focused, and asked a lot of very pertinent questions,” Bermann said.

And there has already been talk of more programs, he added. “I understand [the Commerce Department may] come back here again with officials from Pakistan.”