The Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) will hold its Annual Session, from November 29 to December 1, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China for the first time. Securing international organisations to hold decision-making meetings in Hong Kong is conducive to developing Hong Kong into a centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region, which is one of the major policy initiatives in the Chief Executive’s Policy Address this year. When explaining policy initiatives at Legislative Council Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services, I pointed out that the Department of Justice is actively pursuing the feasibility of establishing an arbitration centre in Hong Kong with international legal and dispute resolution institutions. This will greatly enhance Hong Kong’s position and international image of being an international legal and dispute resolution hub.
It is our honour that Premier Li Keqiang will attend and deliver remarks at the Inaugural Session on November 29 through video link in Beijing. The AALCO is the only cooperation platform dedicated to international law spanning Asia and Africa. The 59th Annual Session of AALCO is the third annual session hosted by China whilst the HKSAR, for the first time, was designated as the venue for the meeting. It will also be the second time Premier Li Keqiang has attended the opening ceremony following the one in 2015. This fully demonstrates the importance attached by the Central People’s Government (CPG) to AALCO and that our country is ready to work with the counterparts in Asia and Africa to jointly defend international law and promote international rule of law.
Originally constituted in 1956 as the “Asian Legal Consultative Committee”, AALCO has held permanent observer status at the United Nations (UN) since 1980 and maintains a permanent office at UN Headquarters. Being the only intergovernmental legal consultative organisation in the Asian and African region with 47 member states, AALCO serves as an important forum to deliberate on international legal issues. Deliberations reflecting diverse legal traditions and myriad cultures in Asian and African nations are consolidated and communicated to other institutions and international organisations, including the UN, so that Asian and African viewpoints, concerns and cultures are appropriately represented in world deliberations on international legal issues, contributing to a more inclusive and comprehensive development of international law, and the understanding and maintenance of the rule of law internationally.
The annual session is one of the major events in AALCO’s calendar each year, during which delegates from member states and those attending as observers primarily participate in deliberations which examine international law matters discussed by other international organisations such as International Law Commission, and examine issues of international law that are of particular interest and relevance to AALCO member states. This reinforces the importance of multilateralism and the collaboration among countries in this area.
Further to AALCO’s work plan approved in the 57th Annual Session in 2018 in relation to the set up of another arbitration centre, the AALCO and the CPG have agreed on the establishment of the centre in Hong Kong, China. An agreement was subsequently signed on 10 November this year. Since 1978, AALCO regional arbitration centres have been set up in five places. Starting from the Asian International Arbitration Centre in Kuala Lumpur to the latest Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration in 2007, the sixth of which will be established in the HKSAR this year with major support from the CPG and AALCO. The regional arbitration centre in Hong Kong will seek to integrate itself in the AALCO dispute settlement system and perform a variety of tasks, such as promoting the growth and effective functioning of arbitration and other dispute resolution services, including online dispute resolution (ODR) services, which will strengthen Hong Kong’s position as an international legal, deal-making and dispute resolution hub.
In view of the growing importance of ODR, it is an opportune time for the AALCO Annual Session to further explore the way forward. A side event on Dispute Settlement - Online Dispute Resolution will be held on the second day of the Annual Session in which a number of legal experts and academics will share with us their views which will no doubt benefit the legal and dispute resolution sector not only in Hong Kong but also around the world in the promotion of ODR in future.
November 27, 2021