SIFoCC exists for three reasons:
- users – that is, business and markets – will be better served if best practice is shared between courts and courts work together to keep pace with rapid commercial change.
- together courts can make a stronger contribution to the rule of law than they can separately, and through that contribute to stability and prosperity worldwide.
- as a means of supporting developing jurisdictions long encouraged by agencies such as the World Bank to enhance their attractiveness to investors by offering effective means for resolving commercial disputes.
In 2016 Lord Thomas, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (and himself a former judge of the Commercial Court in London) issued an invitation to his counterparts around the world to come together to create the Forum.
The invitation followed speeches he had delivered in Dubai, Singapore, The Cayman Islands, London and Beijing. The aim of the Forum would be to enable the judiciary worldwide to share experiences and discuss subjects of mutual interest.
His invitation was accepted by countries with an established commercial court and those with a more recent offering, to form the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (SIFoCC).
New York, Delaware, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, and of course London (England & Wales), were among those accepting.
And from the Gulf States, Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
At a time of focus on “One Belt, One Road”, China was represented, with Hong Kong, itself one of the world’s great commercial centres, and so was Kazakhstan.
Courts from Europe (Hamburg and the English-language Netherlands Court) were included, as were offshore jurisdictions (e.g. Bermuda, Eastern Caribbean, The Cayman Islands).
From Africa, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Rwanda were joined by Nigeria, which according to PWC projections could be 9th in the world league table of GDP by 2050.
With the participation of Scotland and Northern Ireland all parts of the UK were represented, and so too the major jurisdictions of Canada (Ontario) and New Zealand.
The Forum held its inaugural meeting in London on 4-5 May 2017. Senior judges (many at Chief Justice level) from 25 jurisdictions convened to support collaboration between the world’s commercial courts and agreed the Forum should continue as a standing institution. This judicial initiative aligns with global efforts to support the rule of law and prosperity, and also to promote international legal services.
At its inaugural meeting in 2017 the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts agreed to progress the following areas of work in the first instance:
- A multilateral memorandum on current best means of enforcement of commercial judgments between members.
- A working party on how best practice might be identified and litigation made more efficient.
- A structure for judges of the commercial court of a number of developing jurisdictions to be able to spend short periods of time together as observers in the commercial court of another SIFoCC country.
- Practical arrangements for liaison with arbitral bodies to identify and resolve areas of difficulty. Read the report of the 1st SIFoCC Meeting here.
Membership of SIFoCC involves access to a unique international network of judges:
- to share knowledge and expertise
- to tackle shared problems, and
- to prepare for major future change and development.
Membership offers the opportunity:
- of developing sustainable peer-to-peer relationships at judicial level
- of sharing best practice and support in its wider application, and
- of assistance in building capacity.
Membership is open to jurisdictions with an identifiable commercial court or with courts handling commercial disputes. The judiciary of the country becomes the member, rather than any individual judge.
There is no cost to join SIFoCC but, in most cases, members are expected to meet their own costs including travel and accommodation.
SIFoCC membership comes with:
- the opportunity to attend SIFoCC meetings and
- the opportunity to participate in international working groups
- the opportunity to participate in developmental programmes and activities
- updates from SIFoCC and the SIFoCC membersip
- assistance from the secretariat
Interested parties should contact the SIFoCC secretariat.
What is commercial law and what is a commercial court?
Commercial law governs all manner of business and all forms of commercial transaction or endeavour. Commercial courts hear and resolve domestic and/or international disputes over business and commerce.
What are the principal areas of commercial law?
- Financial, Business, Corporate, Competition, Consumer Protection, Contract, Construction, Environmental, Intellectual Property, Insolvency, Property, International Trade, Commodities, Energy, Maritime, Aviation, Technology, Investment, and oversight of Arbitration.
Are there other ways to resolve disputes?
- Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to ways of resolving disputes short of going to court or arbitration. Common forms of ADR include mediation.
Why are commercial courts important?
- It is generally accepted that the proper functioning of commercial dispute resolution through effective commercial court systems contributes towards worldwide stability and prosperity. Those ends are in the interests of all users and all states. Commercial courts can provide predictability and reduce uncertainty. Sustainable economic development, and investor confidence, is promoted by adherence to the rule of law across the world. Commercial courts can develop best practice that is of wider use in national legal systems.
How do commercial courts around the world differ?
- Not all commercial courts are alike. Some have international work, others are focused on national or regional work. Some are designed for disputes of high value and complexity, others for disputes below a value limit. Some have a specialist judiciary; others do not. Some have a responsibility for arbitration; others do not. The range of commercial issues with which commercial courts engage differs from country to country. And this may change over time as business changes.
Why should collaboration between commercial courts internationally be encouraged?
- International collaboration and cooperation is to be welcomed for a number of reasons – commerce itself is international in nature, court users will welcome it, countries will benefit from it, many commercial courts need solutions to some of the same problems in this area, including cost and delay and all commercial courts face the challenge of adapting to the pace and nature of business change.
What are the challenges facing commercial courts?
- The challenges facing commercial courts are similar to those facing all courts. They include cost and resource pressures, maintaining standards, managing complexity, adapting to the pace and nature of business and technological change, and how best to provide access to litigants who cannot afford representation.
What is meant by ‘the Rule of Law’?
- The principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced.
SIFoCC has an international Steering Group comprising:
- Lord Thomas (Chair)
- Chief Justice James Allsop (Chief Justice of Australia’s Federal Court)
- Sir William Blair
- Chief Justice (Emeritus) Bart Katureebe (Former Chief Justice of Uganda)
- Chief Justice (Emeritus) Geoffrey Ma (Former Chief Justice of Hong Kong SAR)
- Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (Chief Justice of Singapore)
- Loretta Preska (Senior Judge, former Chief Justice, US District Courts, Southern District of NY, USA)
- Mr Justice Jonathan Harris (on behalf of Chief Justice Cheung of Hong Kong)
- Sir Geoffrey Vos (Master of the Rolls, England and Wales)
Mr Justice Robin Knowles is the Judge with day to day responsibility for SIFoCC