Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Singapore Convention on Mediation: First United Nations treaty named after the Republic

New UN mediation treaty to be named after Singapore, signing ceremony in August 2019
Move a boost for Republic's status as global hub for resolution of business disputes
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 24 Jul 2018

A new United Nations (UN) treaty on mediation is to be named after Singapore, a move that legal experts say will boost the country's status as an international hub for resolving business disputes.

Called the Singapore Convention on Mediation, the prospective treaty will improve cross-border trade by making it easier to enforce mediated settlements.

This is the first UN treaty to be named after Singapore, which had secured a bid to host its signing ceremony here next year.

Explaining the significance of the naming yesterday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said: "We played a key role in the negotiations, the drafting of the treaty. The countries all agreed for it to be called the Singapore Convention, and they all agreed to Singapore hosting the signing ceremony."

Also, the decision "puts Singapore on the map for thought leadership in international trade laws", he told reporters during a media interview at the Law Ministry (MinLaw).

The recommendation for Singapore to host the signing was made by the UN Commission on International Trade Law when it met in New York from June 25 to July 13.

Singapore has another international treaty named after it - the 2006 Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks. However, it was not concluded under the auspices of the UN organisation, but under the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which is a UN specialised agency.

The UN treaty naming is not without benefit to Singapore.

"Of course, the treaty applies to all countries, but we will be among the places where people will come to for mediation," Mr Shanmugam noted. "We are top quality in arbitration, and now we have a mediation product as well," he added.

Mr George Lim, chairman of the Singapore International Mediation Centre, said: "Having Singapore's name associated with such a ground-breaking agreement will boost our status as an international dispute resolution hub."

He added the treaty is a game-changer that will encourage more businesses worldwide to resolve their disputes peacefully.

Disputes can be settled via other methods, like arbitration. But mediation is less antagonistic as it encourages parties to reach an agreement by finding common ground.

Businesses, however, may not automatically consider it for cross-border disputes "because there is no teeth and no guarantee their settlement would be easily enforced", said Ms Sharon Ong, director of MinLaw's policy advisory division.

With greater certainty of enforcement under the new treaty, Ms Natalie Morris-Sharma, MinLaw's international legal division director, foresees mediation being a cheaper and faster option than before.

The UN treaty is Singapore's latest move in recent years to strengthen the use of mediation for dispute resolution.

Last year, it enacted a Mediation Act that lets agreements reached be recorded as orders of Singapore's courts, allowing parties to enforce their terms more easily.

The new treaty will also benefit businesses, Mr Shanmugam said.

With infrastructure work and trade flows in the region growing exponentially, there needs to be a variety of methods to resolve disagreement, he said, adding that many companies try to keep their relationships going even when disputes arise.

Law firm WongPartnership's chairman Alvin Yeo expects interest in mediation to grow, as businesses find it costly to engage in a long-running arbitration.

He also sees it as part of Singapore's positioning as a leading financial hub. "In financial transactions, you have the possibility of disputes. If Singapore can offer a full suite of dispute resolution services, that is an intangible benefit to its branding," he said.













Mediation puts Singapore on the map
The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2018

The naming of a new United Nations treaty on mediation after Singapore honours a country which is synonymous with international trade as much as it is associated with the rule of law. The Singapore Convention on Mediation will make it easier for businesses to enforce mediated settlement agreements, whose results could be expected to improve cross-border trade. Till now, mediation has been held back because it did not have teeth in cross-border disputes. The new treaty makes a key difference by providing greater certainty of enforcement. Although the treaty will apply to all countries, it will draw people to Singapore because the country offers them an ecosystem for mediation that is fast, efficient and transparent, features that are recognised and respected internationally. The convention's future will lie in the intersection between trade and law.

Singapore has moved decisively to secure its place on the international mediation scene. Last year, it enacted a Mediation Act that lets agreements reached be recorded as orders of Singapore's courts, allowing parties to enforce their terms more easily. The value of mediation is that it allows organisations to handle disagreements with customers, vendors, suppliers and staff in order to prevent matters from escalating into long-drawn and expensive lawsuits that can affect productivity and even bottom lines. In pointing out these advantages, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) notes the advantages of a pragmatic solution on which the contending sides can agree. The disputing parties avoid legal wrangles in which they face the risk of one of them being handed down a ruling against its favour. More than 3,600 matters have been mediated since the SMC's inauguration in 1997. The rate of settlement is about 70 per cent, and 90 per cent of them were resolved within one working day.

The Republic's credentials are buttressed as well by the Singapore International Mediation Centre, which was set up in 2014 to address the needs of parties in cross-border commercial disputes, particularly those doing business in Asia. The Singapore International Mediation Institute, also set up in 2014, acts as the premier independent professional standards body for mediation in Singapore and the region. These organisations have helped to lay the groundwork for the city-state's emergence as an international mediation centre. It is well-known already as a centre for arbitration. Mediation will add another feather to its cap. Given that disputes are a possibility in financial transactions, Singapore can create a new niche for itself in the realm of international trade laws by offering a full range of dispute resolution services. In this, Singapore would benefit immensely from its cultural capital, in the form of the bridge that it represents between Western and Eastern business cultures.









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