The Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC)
Come 5 November 2014, the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) will be officially launched together with the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) and will take its place alongside the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) as part of the suite of dispute resolution services Singapore will offer to the world. SIMC will provide mediation and other related services to parties in cross-border commercial disputes. SIMI is a separate and independent organisation from SIMC and will act as the professional standards body for mediation in Singapore.
SIMC will be the first centre of its kind to focus on providing an amicable solution to international commercial disputes. SIMC presently hosts an elite panel of more than 60 experienced mediators drawn from all over the world, including luminaries such as the best-selling author of Getting to Yes, Dr William Ury, and Singapore’s ambassador-at-large, Professor Tommy Koh. SIMC mediators will be certified by SIMI in order to ensure the maintenance of world-class professional standards of competency and ethics. SIMC is located in Maxwell Chambers, a leading provider of state-of-the-art facilities for alternative dispute resolutions, and will work with Maxwell Chambers in making the most suitable arrangements to facilitate its mediations. Legislation is presently being considered to strengthen the mediation framework in Singapore, including the provision for enforcement of mediated settlements conducted in Singapore as orders of the Singapore Court.
The services offered by SIMC may be seen as being some of the most amicable and party-controlled options for dispute resolution in the spectrum of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes. Mediation is, in a nutshell, a confidential facilitated negotiation where the mediator assists parties to take a problem-solving approach as opposed to an adversarial one that pits one side against the other. Settlements obtained as a result of mediation will allow parties to arrive at practical solutions that may be non-legal in nature, but which may be most suitable to their business interests and needs.
The Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC)
At the other end of this spectrum would be the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), which will involve an adjudicative court process managed by the Singapore High Court. The SICC is expected to be ready in early 2015 and is a revolutionary idea that seeks to further enhance Singapore’s status as a leading forum for legal services and commercial dispute resolution. The SICC will complement mediation at SIMC and arbitration at SIAC it will offer adjudication by a court rather than a tribunal, will be able to handle non-arbitrable matters, and will also permit parties access to an appeal process.
SICC will have, like SIMC, an international and diverse panel of judges and jurists and will target cross-border commercial disputes that may be subject to foreign law and may not otherwise be dealt with in Singapore. Proposed legislative amendments have been placed before Parliament to ensure that the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, and the Legal Profession Act will be ready to support the establishment of the SICC, for example, by providing for the SICC’s composition and jurisdiction, the appointment of senior judges and international judges and their powers, and putting in place a framework for foreign-qualified lawyers to practise in the SICC for cases which have no substantial connection to Singapore, including the process for registration and regulation. It appears that earlier proposed amendments to the Evidence Act to amend the rules of evidence to allow SICC judges to take judicial notice of foreign law instead of having it proved as fact have not been proceeded with after public consultation.
The Establishment of SIMC and SICC
It is interesting to note that the processes leading to the decision to establish both SIMC and the SICC were similar and reflect a uniquely Singaporean approach. The formation and mode of establishment of SIMC and SICC were considered in depth and recommended by two specialist working groups comprising a mix of international experts and stakeholders. The Working Group on International Commercial Mediation was convened by the Honourable the Chief Justice of Singapore Sundaresh Menon and the Ministry of Law in April 2013. The co-chairs of the Singapore International Court Committee (SICC Committee) were appointed by the Chief Justice after discussion with the Minister of Law, Mr K Shanmugam SC, and in May 2013, the Minister appointed the members of the SICC Committee. Both working groups rendered their respective reports in November 2013, setting out detailed recommendations on not only the rationale, structure and services of the new entity that was the subject of their consideration, but also the supporting framework required to implement and establish the new entity. Consultations with the public were also a feature in the decision to set up SIMC and the SICC.
This author is optimistic that given the amount of consideration given to SIMC and the SICC, as well as the support from key stakeholders including the Ministry of Law, Singapore will truly be able to make a significant contribution to the international market in providing more options for international commercial dispute resolution.
By Eunice Chua Hui Han (Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Singapore International Mediation Centre (www.simc.com.sg))
* This blog entry may be cited as: Eunice Chua Hui Han, “SIMC and SICC – New Developments in Singapore for the Resolution of International Commercial Disputes” Singapore Law Blog (21 October 2014) <http://www.singaporelawblog.sg/blog/article/52>