Speech by Senior Minister of State for Law, Indranee Rajah, at the launch of the Singapore International Mediation Institute
Justice Belinda Ang
Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy
Professor Simon Chesterman, Dean of the NUS Law Faculty
Board members of the Singapore International Mediation Institute
Ladies and gentlemen
1. I am delighted to be here at the launch of the Singapore International Mediation Institute. The mediation component is the third jewel in the crown. We have had arbitration for some time, we are setting up the Singapore International Commercial Court and then of course, we have mediation. So the first two components, arbitration and international litigation, where they slug it out, but after allowing people to do so, we should also have a means for them to make up, and that is where mediation comes in. In Singapore, we like to take a holistic view of things.
B. Dispute Resolution Ecosystem
2. For the past twenty years or so, the global engine of economic growth has been shifting towards Asia, and is expected to continue doing so. Projections show that over the next 25 years, Asia will add the equivalent of three whole Eurozones to the global economy.
3. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Asian countries has increased significantly in recent years.
a. The total flow of FDI to member nations of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum rose from about US$560 billion prior to the 2008 economic crisis, to US$789 billion in 2013.
b. On the other hand, FDI flow of the G20 fell from an average of US$878 billion pre-crisis to US$791 billion in 2013. Currently, the share of total FDI flow accounted to by APEC is on par with the G20.
4. The increase in cross border economic and trade activities in this part of the world will drive the demand for legal and dispute resolution services, and presents an opportunity for Singapore to become Asia’s preferred venue for dispute resolution.
5. By building up a full suite of dispute resolution services, we will be able to provide international clients with the flexibility to use the dispute resolution process which is best suited for addressing the dispute at hand.
6. Singapore has done well in developing our arbitration ecosystem. We are now one of the top rated seats of arbitration in the world.
7. In terms of litigation, Singapore has a strong rule of law and our Courts are internationally respected. The upcoming Singapore International Commercial Court will leverage on these traditional strengths to offer a forum for open court litigation.
8. In this context, we see an impetus to strengthen our mediation offerings as an important complement to arbitration and litigation.
C. Advantages of Mediation
9. Unlike arbitration and litigation, which are adversarial processes and result in a “win-lose” situation, successful mediation can sometimes result in a better outcome for the parties, as win-win situations can be achieved through a flexible mix of legal and non-legal solutions.
10. Unlike an award or judgment where an arbitrator or a judge makes a decision based on the legal merits of the case, mediated settlements are the product of negotiations between the parties, facilitated by the mediator, and therefore must reflect the consensus of the parties.
11. This requires different skill sets and training – a good arbitrator or judge does not always make a good mediator.
a. The mediator acts as a bridge to bring the parties closer to agreement. He does not judge based on the merits of the case, or impose his will on the parties.
b. Rather, through his skilful intervention, he must help the parties to voluntarily reach an enduring solution that both sides find acceptable.
c. This requires strong inter-personal skills, patience, an ability to garner trust from the parties, as well as sensitivity to the cultural and other dynamics at play.
d. In some instances, it may even require creativity and an openness to explore solutions which may be unconventional or “out of the box”.
D. Impetus for SIMI
12. To develop Singapore’s capabilities for international commercial mediation, the International Commercial Mediation Working Group highlighted three key aspects that should be put in place.
a. First, a professional body – the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) – is needed to set standards and ensure the quality of mediators.
b. Second, an international mediation service provider – the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) – should be set up to provide best-of-class international commercial mediation services; and
c. Third, a Mediation Act should be enacted to strengthen the supporting legislative framework for mediation. Some of the recommended features of the Act include:
i. The stay of court proceedings;
ii. The enforceability of mediated outcomes as an Order of the Court; and
iii. Confidentiality provisions.
13. Today marks an important milestone for mediation in Singapore as we witness the fruition of some of these recommendations.
a. We are gathered here for the launch of SIMI, and the SIMC will be launched later this evening.
b. Consultations with stakeholders on the draft Mediation Bill are also ongoing, and we hope to begin public consultation soon.
E. Role of SIMI
14. SIMI will play the important role of the professional body for mediation in Singapore. It will contribute to the development of mediation in Singapore in three main areas.
a. First, through its credentialing schemes, SIMI will ensure the professionalism and quality of mediators on its panel.
b. Second, SIMI will serve as a mark of quality assurance for mediators, and instil in users the trust and confidence in the mediation services they provide.
c. And third, SIMI will strive to promote greater understanding and inspire wider use of mediation, through educational and awareness workshops and programmes on mediation.
15. I am heartened to see that SIMI is already off to a strong start.
a. It will be housed in NUS, a leading global university in Asia with a strong and highly-regarded law faculty.
b. A distinguished member of the NUS law faculty, Associate Professor Joel Lee, chairs SIMI’s Board of Directors, which comprises exceptional individuals and experts in mediation and related fields.
c. SIMI also shares an international partnership with the International Mediation Institute, the professional body for mediation worldwide. The two entities will be working closely together to ensure that SIMI’s and IMI’s professional standards remain relevant and at the cutting edge of mediation best practices.
16. We trust that in time to come, under the strong leadership of its Board, SIMI will become a brand name that symbolises trust and an assurance of high quality mediation service.
17. In closing, I would like to thank all who have contributed to making SIMI a reality.
18. I wish SIMI every success as it embarks on a ground-breaking and ambitious journey.