16 Dec 2019
As my term as the Chartered Institute’s President comes to a close, I have been asked to give the membership a short report on my work for the Institute during this year and to convey to you some brief thoughts I have had from those experiences. In that regard, and as you may know, the Institute’s President is not the chief executive office but rather its ambassador, speaking on its behalf and representing it at functions. This is not to diminish the importance of the role of President, for, in many instances and for many outside the Institute, the President, for all intents and purposes, is its face and spokesperson.
Let me say it has been an honor and a privilege to be the Institute’s 2019 President. My year has been filled with many successes, but also, as with most Institute Presidents, a few regrets. On the plus side, I represented the Institute in places such as Edinburgh, Dublin, London, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Singapore, Vienna and Hong Kong as well as events including the VIS Moot, the IPBA annual meeting, the College of Commercial Arbitrators annual meeting and New York Arbitration Week, to name but a few. I was also able to meet and discuss the Institute and its objectives with many judges and other government officials including present and past Supreme Court Justices from a number of countries, the First Minister of Scotland, the Secretary for Justice of Hong Kong and Members of Parliament in the U.K. And most enjoyably, I met many of you through participation in events or meetings at the Institute’s Young Members Group and at more than a few Branches around the world.
On the minus side, there were other activities and events in which I would have liked to have been able to participate, but time or resources or both conspired against me doing so. This is a lament common to most Institute Presidents, but, unfortunately, my year also had two heartbreaking incidents. Both were in the news. The first was a real tragedy, the Sri Lanka bombings which occurred less than a week before I was to help in the then scheduled inauguration of the new branch there. The second was the assault just outside the Institute’s offices in London on the Honourable Ms. Teresa Cheng C.Arb FCIArb, GBS SC JP Secretary for Justice of the Hong Kong SAR as she was coming there to present the Alexander Lecture. Much has already been said about each of them and there is no need to detail them here, but I do note they strike at the heart of one of the Institute’s core creeds – the need for the rule of law and the value of the peaceful resolution of disputes.
These two acts of violence do thus remind us of the Institute’s role in, and its importance to the world at large though, the promotion of ADR as a means for the just, efficient and, need I say, peaceful resolution of disputes. But even as that is so, we must also not lose sight of the Institute’s work in responding to the increased criticism of ADR, and more specifically of arbitration, from the courts, from legislatures and from user communities. The work by the Institute to answer these complaints is ongoing through such initiatives as the education pathways and other courses, the sponsorship of research and scholarship and the promulgation of guidelines and best practices. Not only is this work continuing, but I am also pleased to say it is increasing and I know that this growth will continue.
And that brings me to the final thought or two I would like to share with you – about the ongoing changes in the leadership and organization of the Institute. As has been announced, Anthony Abrahams MCIArb will be retiring in 2020 as Director General. I was on the Board of Management twice during his tenure and I know how much he has changed the Institute for the better. We all owe him a sincere vote of gratitude. Indeed, one of the significant projects commenced during his tenure is the governance study which will result in modernizing the Institute’s governing structure. While the study is still in progress and I cannot as yet report to you on any hard conclusions, I am very much encouraged by what I have seen of it.
In closing, I would like to thank you, the members of the Institute, for the trust you bestowed in me by selecting me, albeit indirectly, as your President. I would also like to thank the many members I met throughout the year for the good fellowship they gave me. And finally, I would like to thank Anthony Abrahams MCIArb, Jonathan Wood MCIArb, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Jane Gunn FCIArb, the Chair of the Board of Management, and the many Branch Chairs with whom I worked for the support they gave me as President.
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