The significance of collaboration in building a regional dispute resolution footprint – lessons from Singapore.

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UIA ADR conference participants

Singapore is a great place for a holiday.

It is also a great place to learn lessons that would be very valuable for our economy in general- and our dispute resolution community in particular.

The opening session of the 24th UIA World Congress of Mediation in Singapore has given us a great snapshot of what collaboration achieves.

The big picture is enlightening. Statistics demonstrate that the economic gravity of the world is shifting rapidly to Asia which now accounts for 40% of global GDP.

The growth of Asian economies has been accompanied by a growth in the number of disputes and the Singapore Government has seen this as a commercial opportunity. It set out to create Singapore as the standout arbitration hub in Asia. Its active involvement and support has seen Singapore emerge as the third busiest arbitration centre in the world.

Through the collaborative work of its dispute resolution institutions the Singapore Government has, since 2014, broadened its sponsorship, and has moved from a focus on arbitration to a focus on dispute resolution which embraces arbitration and mediation. The aspiration is to promote Asian voices in global conversations.

A remarkable element of the strength of the mediation focus has been the commitment to collaboration and interconnectedness demonstrated by the 4 key institutional pillars:

  • Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC)
  • Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy (SIDRA)
  • Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) and
  • Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC)

The Court has added consistent support and leadership and through the combined efforts of the government and institutions there have been some significant achievements. A few examples are:

  • Tax exemptions for non-resident mediators
  • Collaboration between SIMC and SIAC (the Singapore International Arbitration Centre) to offer a one stop shop solutions via arb-med-arb. This provides reassurance about enforcement of agreements via access to the New York Convention
  • A link to China’s Belt and Road initiative to help businesses resolve disputes
  • SIMC’s mediation panel of 70 international mediators demonstrating significant international reach and credibility which sits alongside its panel of technical experts available to parties
  • Ongoing thought leadership projects investigating what’s next in the field – issues such as systems thinking and online dispute resolution
joel's table

Slide presented at the 24th UIA World Mediation Forum Singapore, October 2017 by Associate Professor Joel Lee of the National University of Singapore

The achievements are remarkable. The Dispute Resolution landscape in Australia would be transformed if we could achieve the same level of collaboration.

However, despite the collaboration and the investment some things are yet to be achieved. Currently mediation is the full-time day job of only one person in Singapore. Whilst there are many more full-time mediators in Australia, the situations in our 2 jurisdictions are very similar with regard to the failure to create a substantial profession of full-time mediators. The number of trained mediators in Australia far exceeds the available work.

This remains as significant a challenge in Singapore as it is in Australia.

 

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