Robert Musgrove interview: Rule of law

Qatar is aiming become a global hub for international arbitration and dispute resolution and it has already attracted some high-profile judges to sit on its benches

Qatar may only have been in existence as an independent state since 1971 and its total population may only amount to less than the size of an average small city in the US but it has strong ambitions to be known globally for more than just the wealth it has amassed from its lucrative oil and gas reserves.

The Doha Debates, in association with the BBC, have garnered international praise, television channel Al Jazeera has become a globally respected broadcaster and the awarding by FIFA of the 2022 World Cup has rubber-stamped the Emir’s plans to fashion the small state into a global superpower.

“Five years ago, Qatar knocked politely on the door of the world and asked could it come in because it is wealthy. Now, it has blown the doors off and said now you will listen to me,” says Robert Musgrove, CEO of the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC).

“A great example, in my view, is when the big leaders met in Paris for the Libya transition. Of the 60 world leaders in the room, on stage there was president [Nicolas] Sarkozy, prime minister [David] Cameron and the Emir of Qatar… That gives you an indication of Qatar’s ambition,” he adds.

Part of this global vision includes becoming a global leader in terms of diplomacy and the rule of law. As one of the regional powers to have avoided any uprising by its citizens during the Arab Spring movement, Doha has worked hard to become one of the de facto go-to locations for global dispute resolution.

“The thinking went back to 2004 when the Emir, in the early days, was considering the diversification of the economic wealth of this country and the future growth of the economy beyond its reliance on gas and oil. One of the key investment areas was to attract international trade,” Musgrove says, recalling the early days of the setting up of the international court.

“Dubai was also going through a similar stage, to become an international hub in the region. The Emir went to look to the UK as a model and developed the Qatar Financial Centre. Without a degree of surprise, he also looked to the UK to build a regulatory tribunal and dispute resolution centre.

“The thinking is that is it part of the investment package. If Qatar wants to deal with large international companies and attract high-quality companies into Qatar to do business…it needs to promote the ability to be able to protect the rights of these companies. Rule of law is critically important to economic development in this part of the world,” he says.

Formerly chief executive of the Civil Justice Council, a London-based advisory body for judicial reform, Musgrove was closely involved with the civil justice system in England and Wales for more than 25 years and worked with various British governments in a variety of policy, research, and advisory roles.

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