The Paris ODR Conference – When Law Meets Tech

The 17th annual ODR Conference, which took place in Paris last month, was not your average law event. Entitled Equal Access to Information and Justice Online Dispute Resolution, the conference spanned across two days filled with intense discussions, ideas, exciting projects and most importantly – excellent food. Especially unique, was the combination of tech experts and lawyers from all over the world, and of course those who fit into both categories.

There were a number of factors that set this conference apart from any other I have attended, the most notable being diversity. Women made up at least half of all attendees, both in the legal and tech industries this is, I dare say, unusual. Perhaps not so surprising from an event organised by Mireze Philippe, Special Counsel at the International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Center, and co-founder of Arbitral Women, who has been a champion of diversity throughout her career.

The main focus of course was online dispute resolution (ODR), although the range of topics was vast – from looking at how ODR can be effective in solving consumer disputes to using technology to provide access to justice for homeless people in Latin America. There was a distinct atmosphere, unusual for a legal conference, perhaps because of the international and cross disciplinary nature. With access to justice as a central theme, human rights, ethics were key topics of discussion.

ODR in human rights and peace building

The first keynote speaker, François Zimeray, France’s Ambassador to Denmark and former Ambassador for Human Rights, spoke about forgiveness a future in digital era. Zimeray identified the correlation between conflict and globalisation/consumerism, emphasising the key role of education in peace building and creating less conflictual societies. He also asked important questions in regards to how we prepare future generations to deal with conflict effectively – noting that it is not only important to think about what earth we will leave to our children, but that “we must also ask ourselves what children should we leave to our earth?”.

The second keynote speaker, Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation an organisation that aims to facilitate effective communication for those involved in peace building, joined via Skype from Sri Lanka. He spoke about the connection between business and human rights, highlighting the impact of technology on the way people access information and engage politically, stating that data is key to the transformation of dispute resolution – especially when looking at factors such as gender in political conflict resolution, which can play a huge role. Like Zimeray, he believes education is key, noting the correlation between literacy rates and effective governance and maintaining peaceful societies.

Access to justice

There was a wide representation of non