Egypt’s rich history, religion, culture and legal system present compelling evidence for embracing mediation. From ancient Egyptian history, Cierpicki wrote: “Papyri from Ptolemaic Egypt (305–30 BC) show that it was commonplace for the State to deal with disputes by first directing them to be mediated. The royal administrative officer in charge of receiving complaints would often endorse the petition thus: ‘best to mediate; if that is not successful …’ followed by the appropriate legal procedure.”
Many references to mediation can be easily found in the two primary Egyptian religions: In Islam, the prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was known to mediate disputes between different tribes and groups and encourage the settlement of disputes through mediation. Islamic judges (Qadi) and the justice system witnessed dispute resolution, said to have parallels to modern case management and obligatory mediation. Similar references are found in the Bible: in his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul urged people to settle matters out of court.
Egyptian culture in general is influenced by the family elder culture. This is particularly vivid in upper Egyptian villages, where many disputes, including criminal conflicts, are settled by the “Agaweed” or a village elder authoritative mediator.
Many laws in Egypt encourage and recognize conciliation: Criminal procedural and penalty code (25 small crimes), Civil Law (19-557) and Commercial Art. (725-767), and Civil and Commercial Procedural Law (103,71,64). Many laws encourage reconciliation where the state is a party to the dispute, such as in Tax, Customs, Construction, Environment, Traffic, Investment and Administrative laws.
Reasons for Expanding Mediation in Egypt
According to the IFC – World Bank, to enforce business contracts, it takes the courts in Egypt, on average, 1,010 days at a cost of 26% of the value of the claim. These figures make it clear that mediation efficiency and quality are much needed, in order for Egypt to enhance its quality of justice.
Current Mediation Laws in Egypt
There are two current laws in Egypt governing court-connected mediation programs: 1) in the family courts and 2) in the economic courts. In the family courts, mediation is conducted by a court staff member and in the economic courts, mediation is conducted by a judge. These programs have promoted the use of mediation in Egypt, but litigants are not satisfied and view these processes as a useless step to litigation.
There are many international initiatives to support the use of mediation in Egypt. The International Finance Corporation has conducted a project to support mediation in Egypt, North African countries, and the MENA region, in order to maintain and enhance their economic status by resolving commercial disputes through mediation. Mediation is seen as a faster and more efficient method, compared to the courts and arbitration. The UN has published the UNCITRAL Model Mediation Law in Arabic for Arab countries to follow at both the commercial and international level.
Mediation Centers in Egypt
There are three mediation centers in Egypt: 1) The Arab Mediation Center (AMC) 2) the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA), which includes mediation services with its arbitration service, and 3) The Investors Dispute Resolution Centre, affiliated with the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, part of the Egyptian Ministry of Investment (GAFI).
According to the IFC mission in Egypt: The completion of mediation initiatives in Egypt between 2011 to 2014 have led to 457 cases that have been resolved through mediation in the economic courts, GAFI’s mediation Centre, CRCICA, and private mediators. These cases led to the release, through settlement agreements, of $422,801,421.
There is a need to embrace and expand mediation in Egypt, and it is only a matter of time before mediation becomes the default method for resolving disputes. There is a great need for awareness campaigns on mediation and its possible benefits, the creation of well-designed mandatory mediation programs, and the development of competent mediators. There are many ideas and projects to be implemented that can help expand the culture of mediation in the country and beyond, especially since the foundation for Egypt’s embrace of mediation is well established.
By Dr. Sherif Elnegahy, Senior Fellow-Egypt, Weinstein International Foundation