07 Sep 2011

RAISING THE BAR: THE INTERNATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION IS COMING TO TOWN

Authored by: Sadiq Jafar

RAISING THE BAR THE INTERNATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION IS COMING TO TOWN

Sadiq Jafar, Managing Partner of the Dubai office, updates us on Dubai's hosting of the IBA Annual Conference from 30 October.

Held for the first time in the Middle East, the IBA Annual Conference will run from 30 October to 4 November 2011 and it is estimated that up to 5,000 lawyers from around the world will participate.
 
In the regional spirit of this time, a group of Dubai law firms, including Hadef & Partners, has sponsored a scholarship programme for 50 young Arab lawyers to attend the 2011 IBA Annual Conference free of cost, to help ensure that the event's inaugural presence in the Middle East leaves a lasting footprint across the region. 
 
The 15 UAE law firms with representation on the Dubai Host Committee for the 6-day summit co-sponsored this scholarship programme to help promote the IBA in the Arab world. An important part of the IBA’s platform is the promotion of the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the right of the legal profession to practice free of external influence.

The 50 young Arab lawyers fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship to attend the annual gathering of the IBA, established in 1947, will have a unique opportunity to meet colleagues from all over the world and to learn from international lawyers, from among the 40,000 individual members and 197 affiliated bar associations and law societies.  
 
All 75 lawyers of Hadef & Partners are members of the IBA and a number are IBA Officers.
Although about 10% of IBA’s international members usually attend the Annual Conference, this year with Dubai confidence and ambition firmly rehabilitated there is every prospect that with eight weeks to go until the 2011 event we could break the record by achieving our target of 5,000 attendees. 
 
In the gloomy days of 2009 this target would have been dismissed as fanciful, indeed to even host the event would have been questioned by some, as Brand Dubai was portrayed negatively by the international media and the tsunami of the global credit crisis swept many aside. 
 
Two years on, and with oil prices healthy, most analysis from far and wide indicates a substantial turnaround.
Consumer confidence in the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, is the highest since 2004, according to MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence released on 18 August. Confidence was 95.6, compared with 73.6 six months ago, exceeding markets such as China and India. The score is calculated with zero as the most pessimistic and 100 as most optimistic. 
 
The retail sector accounts for 30 percent of gross domestic product in Dubai, home to about 40 shopping malls, Standard Chartered Bank Plc estimates. Retail sales in the emirate are expected to increase 7.2 percent this year, up from last year’s 3.6 percent growth, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry forecasts. Across the UAE, BMI expects retail sales to grow to $41 billion by 2015 from $31 billion this year.
 
This 2011 recovery comes despite, and to some extent as a result of, a backdrop labelled the Arab Spring. Visitors from Gulf Arab states and a range of other countries, and notably China, are coming to the UAE as political unrest in other Middle Eastern countries diverts tourism and investment. Uprisings in the region this year have toppled governments in Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya, with changes looming in Syria and Yemen. Diverted tourism which has hindered the affected regions has helped boost Dubai’s tourism figures with hotel occupancy rates increasing by 10.5% since 2010, according to Ernst & Young’s Middle East Hotel Benchmark Survey. 
 
Simultaneously, passenger air traffic in the region is booming. Latest analysis conducted by the International Air Transport Association found that air passenger traffic of Middle East carriers increased by 9.7% in July 2011 compared to July 2010. In fact, recent reports suggest that by November 2011, Dubai will be the second busiest international airport in the world. 
 
Business activity is following similar trends. The UAE’s trade with the world is expected to exceed AED289 billion by the end of 2011, according to statistics issued by Dubai Customs. This marks a significant 17% increase compared to last year’s numbers. Compared to its peers in the region, the UAE continues to be the most attractive Arab destination for foreign investment. Employment figures are continuing to trend upwards and the UAE looks to benefit from its continued economic recovery allied with its position as the leading regional business hub. 
 
The world’s largest annual gathering of lawyers will certainly contribute to Dubai’s year of recovery as more than 4,000 lawyers will occupy the Emirate’s 5-star hotels for a week, book many restaurants and leisure activities, as well as occupying the entirety of the Dubai Convention Centre. This year's Conference will include more than 200 working sessions, a range of social receptions, and up to 125,000 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours will be on offer for legal professionals. 
 
For more detailed information on the IBA and the Dubai Conference, please refer to the IBA website: http://www.ibanet.org
 
Sadiq Jafar, Managing Partner of the Dubai Office of Hadef & Partners, is Vice-Chair of the Arab Regional Forum of the IBA and Vice-Chair of the Dubai Host Committee for the IBA Annual Conference. The Host Committee meets monthly to progress and promote the event and has received significant support from the IBA's central leadership and executive as well as a range of UAE governmental departments, including the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Dubai Government Legal Department.