Singapore launches international mediation centre

Posted in News

5 Nov 2014
Global Arbitration Review

The launch of the new centre  to be known as the Singapore International Mediation Centre or SIMC  took place today at Maxwell Chambers. The building is also home to the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

Those in attendance were told how the SIMC will supplement SIAC’s arbitration services, as well as providing an alternative. Indeed, the two bodies will offer a joint “Arb-Med-Arb service that allows disputes referred to arbitration to be stayed while the parties embark on mediation.

If the parties reach a settlement through mediation, the outcome can be recorded as a consent arbitral award that is enforceable under the New York Convention. If the mediation fails, the Arb-Med-Arb service allows the parties to continue with the arbitration.

Singapore’s minister of law K Shanmugam told the launch that the SIMC will complement Singapore’s successful arbitration sector and the “enhanced litigation capabilities soon to be provided by the Singapore International Commercial Court. The centre will offer a panel of mediators drawn from around the world.

Singapore’s chief justice Sundaresh Menon SC, a former arbitration specialist, told how he and Shanmugam appointed a working group in April 2013 to assess how the city state could develop into a centre for international commercial mediation.

Co-led by Edwin Glasgow QC of Thirty-Nine Essex Street Chambers in London, and George Lim SC of Wee Tay & Lim in Singapore, the group made recommendations to the Singaporean government last November, proposing the establishment of the centre.

The group also recommended the creation of a professional body to set standards and accredit mediators and the drafting of a new mediation law.

Menon noted that the two last recommendations are on the way to being fulfilled. A regulatory body known as the Singapore International Mediation Institute has been established and the ministry of law is in the process of drafting a mediation bill with provisions on enforceability of mediated settlements in the Singapore courts and the confidentiality and admissibility of communications in mediation proceedings.

“The proposed bill will not only provide more clarity and certainty for users and providers of mediation services, particularly in areas where the law is unclear, it will also bolster the confidence that users have in mediation services in Singapore, Menon explained.

Menon shared figures from the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s 2013 World Investment Report that ASEAN countries had seen a 30 per cent growth in foreign direct investment between 2007 and 2012.

He noted that nearly half of the arbitrations registered at SIAC in 2013 had no connection to Singapore at all, and that the average value of claims arbitrated had grown from just over S$15 million to over S$24 million between 2012 and 2013.

Although Singapore already has institutions offering mediation services  the Singapore Mediation Centre, the Primary Dispute Resolution Centre and the Community Mediation Centre  these largely deal with domestic disputes, he said.

In a statement today, SIMC deputy chairman Lim noted that the SIMC will offer “a unique proposition to the dispute resolution landscape, partnering with other alternative dispute resolution service providers to offer new products. It is also expected to sign memoranda of understanding with other mediation centres in Asia in the coming months.

Michael McIlwrath, global chief counsel for GE Oil & Gas, who spoke at a half-day seminar organised by Maxwell Chambers and the SIMC before the launch, said the centre is a striking innovation in the “largely conservative field of dispute resolution.

The eight-strong board of directors of the SIMC:

Edwin Glasgow CBE QC, Thirty-Nine Essex Street Chambers (chairman)

George Lim SC, Wee Tay & Lim (deputy chairman)

John Pyall, Munich Reinsurance Singapore

Lucien Wong, Allen & Gledhill

Chow Kok Fong, Equitas Corporation

Lawrence Boo, The Arbitration Chambers

Poon Hong Yuen, Ministry of Law

Lok Vi Ming, Rodyk & Davidson