360° ADR Midweek Webinar: SIMC and VIAC launch mediation initiatives to provide businesses with a swift relief to disputes during Covid-19

Posted in Insights October 10, 2020

The World Bank had recently announced that in East Asian and Pacific countries alone 38 million more people would fall below the poverty line due to the coronavirus pandemic. Given the severe economic challenges experienced by businesses and people all over the world, George Lim SC hopes mediation would become the preferred mode of dispute resolution to help parties solve disputes amicably.

“As a legal profession, we can take the lead to help people manage their disputes better during this difficult period of time. I always tell parties: you can either fight it out or you can sort it out. I think in this time we should be helping parties to sort their disputes peacefully through mediation,” George shared during the 360° ADR midweek talk[1].

The webinar’s topic, Move on from Covid-19 with mediation initiatives in Vienna and Singapore, was prompted after Vienna International Arbitral Centre (VIAC) and Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) rolled out plans earlier this year to assist enterprises overcome the problems caused by the pandemic through mediation.

During the webinar on September 30th Alice Fremuth-Wolf, Secretary-General, VIAC; George Lim SC, Chairman, SIMC; and Amelie Huber-Starlinger, a mediator accredited in Austria, England (CEDR) and Singapore (SIMI), discussed the two institutions’ respective initiatives, which have helped businesses access inexpensive mediation services and resolve disputes swiftly over the past few months.

“SIMC and VIAC have worked closely with each other over the years… I was very happy to learn that SIMC had also rolled out its own initiative responding to Covid-19… in this case both institutions have acted like ‘soul mates’”.

Alice Fremuth-Wolf, Secretary-General, VIAC

VIAC rolled out its “Mediation Initiative” with the aim of restoring business relationships after Covid-19. Through this initiative VIAC provides a leaner suit of mediation services while also waiving their registration and administrative fees. Through the Covid-19 initiative VIAC serves as a hub for companies to find suitable mediators who work within a pre-established framework.

Alice further explained, “We have a pre-selected pool of mediators with whom we’ve negotiated the terms and lowered fees. We search a database to identify the name of the mediator to the parties and then it is in the hands of the mediator and parties. We ask the mediator to report if the case was closed. Some pre-requisites are: the undertaking should have at least one Austrian connection and the dispute should be partially triggered by the pandemic.”

“SIMC and VIAC have worked closely with each other over the years and we also have a cooperation agreement in place. During the summer, I was very happy to learn that SIMC had also rolled out its own initiative responding to Covid-19… in this case both institutions have acted like ‘soul mates’,” said Alice.

Similarly SIMC launched a Covid-19 Protocol, which provides expedited mediation at prices adjusted to varying dispute values to help businesses resolve cross-border commercial disputes amicably. The new protocol supports mediations that can be conducted partially or fully online according to the preference of the parties involved, with full support from SIMC. As the Protocol was conceived as a service to the business community, the rates were kept affordable.

“It has become easier to conduct mediations online and more people are able to attend the sessions. Previously a CEO would not have been able to fly into Singapore or Vienna for the mediation; now he will be able to take part in the session from the comfort of his or her home,” George weighed in, recounting his previous experiences conducting online mediations through the Covid-19 Protocol.

[1] The presentations are available here.