Alternative Dispute Resolution: Toward a Clear, Reliable and Effective Dispute Resolution System in Saudi Arabia

01 April 2019

Saudi Arabia has declared its post-oil economic plan: Vision 2030 seeks to make the Kingdom "a global investment powerhouse" and disentangle national economic growth from oil revenues. This dissertation argues that jurisdictions like Saudi Arabia that hope to foster hospitable environments for foreign investment and efficient trade systems must establish effective dispute resolution systems that all business parties can trust. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms fit perfectly in this context. ADR has become increasingly prevalent and popular around the world; indeed, arbitration and other means of ADR have become universal methods for resolving disputes in international commerce. Determining whether the current ADR system in Saudi Arabia can support Vision 2030 goals this requires comprehensive investigation and analysis. This dissertation thoroughly examines the reasons that many continue to perceive the Kingdom as inhospitable to ADR. identifying the root causes and analyzing their consequences. It also emphasizes the need for creating an effective ADR system in the Saudi jurisdiction. It evaluates the current status of ADR in the Kingdom by comparatively and critically analyzing the reality of ADR processes in the Saudi legal system and identifies possible strategies for expanding and improving ADR practices within that system. It offers multiple levels of analysis, comparing the Saudi system and experience to those of some leading jurisdictions around the world. The dissertation argues that, at the national level, implementing a clear and effective ADR system will benefit the public system of justice in many ways. The use of ADR in traditional courts via specialized public agencies as well as in other private bodies, if implemented within a clear legal framework, will, for instance, positively contribute to efforts to improve the justice system by reducing court caseloads and enhancing "access to justice." The dissertation examines and answers the following research questions: (1) What is the current status of the Saudi dispute resolution system? (2) Does the dispute resolution system in Saudi Arabia need to find "a better way"? (3) If so, can ADR contribute positively to the system's reform? (4) What are the benefits of creating a clear ADR legal framework? (4) Should ADR be a part of the many legal reform initiatives concerning the justice system in Saudi Arabia? (5) What law and practice reforms will enhance the functionality of ADR instruments? (6) What lessons do the experiences of some of the world's leading jurisdictions in the field of ADR provide? (7) What role can education play in the development of ADR in Saudi Arabia? (8) How can institutionalization contribute to the growth of ADR in the Saudi jurisdiction? (9) What aims should the Kingdom establish in this area and how should it endeavor to accomplish them? This dissertation fills the gap in the current scholarly literature by accomplishing several objectives. It highlights, for example, the importance of having a clear ADR framework, addressing the benefits of structuring and regulating ADR methods in the Kingdom. It also emphasizes that implementing an effective and efficient ADR legal framework will require reform in many areas. The dissertation consists of seven chapters. Chapter 1 serves as an introduction; it provides general background information regarding the subject of the dissertation, stating the central problem it addresses and specifying its aims. Chapter 2 conceptualizes the dissertation's subject and examines the history and development of ADR in both the Saudi jurisdiction and several leading jurisdictions. It also explains the concept if justice in Islamic law, which is crucial to understanding the evolution of the Saudi system of justice and comparing current practice to its root. Chapter 3 provides a comprehensive critical analysis of arbitration-related law and practice in the Saudi legal system. Chapter 4 derives several valuable lessons from arbitration laws and practices in the United Kingdom and the United States. Chapter 5 comprehensively examines the role of education in the development of ADR in Saudi Arabia and discusses the findings of a survey conducted on ADR instruction in Saudi law schools. Chapter 6 analyzes the benefits of institutionalizing ADR in the Saudi legal system, outlining the improvements required to ensure effective implementation, examining why and how the Kingdom should take the steps in question, and identifying what it should seek to reinforce, alter, and avoid. Chapter 7 concludes the dissertation and makes recommendations.