Singapore: a regional leader for dispute resolution

By Lim Seok Hui, SIAC
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Over the years, Singapore has built up a vibrant dispute resolution ecosystem with the right elements to cater to the growing demand from international parties for such services. There is a full suite of dispute resolution options for users to select from, depending on users’ needs and preferences.

Lim-Seok-Hui
LIM SEOK HUI

In recognition of Singapore’s trusted legal system and highly respected judiciary, Singapore was ranked the top Asian country in the 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index and 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Arbitration and the SIAC

In the 2018 Queen Mary University of London and White & Case International Arbitration Survey, Singapore was ranked third-most-popular seat (after London and Paris), and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) was ranked third out of the top five arbitral institutions in the world, making it the most popular arbitration institution based in Asia.

In 2017, the SIAC handled a record high of 452 new case filings and saw a broad spectrum of users from six continents and encompassing 58 jurisdictions. The SIAC panel of arbitrators comprises more than 400 international arbitrators from more than 40 jurisdictions, with specialist expertise in various fields. With an eminent board and Court of Arbitration comprising leading international arbitration experts and professionals, and an experienced and multinational secretariat, the SIAC is well positioned to serve the global business community’s arbitration needs.

Singapore takes an open and inclusive approach to arbitration and is home to other top international arbitral institutions such as the ICC International Court of Arbitration, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

Unlike many other countries, there is total freedom of choice of counsel and law firms for parties in arbitration. Singapore constantly reviews its laws to ensure that they remain up to date and are in line with international best practice and developments. In terms of infrastructure, Maxwell Chambers, the world’s first integrated dispute resolution complex, is being tripled in size, and is being developed to become the world’s first “smart hearing” facility. The new complex, named Maxwell Chambers Suites, is expected to be ready by the middle of next year.

Mediation and the SIMC

The Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) offers high-quality international commercial mediation services, including the SIAC-SIMC Arb-Med-Arb Protocol, which is jointly administered with the SIAC and has become a popular dispute resolution mechanism for parties. The protocol offers international investors and businesses from different legal systems and cultures, the benefits of certainty coupled with flexibility within an institutionalized framework that is user-friendly, practical and saves parties time and costs.

The SIMC’s mediators are certified independently by the Singapore International Mediation Institute, a professional standards body for mediators. In recognition of Singapore’s thought leadership in mediation, the UN convention and model law on enforceability of settlement agreements arising from international mediation proceedings will be signed in Singapore in August next year, and will be known as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”.

The Singapore Convention will put in place an international framework for the enforcement of mediated settlements similar to the 1958 New York Convention for the enforcement of arbitral awards, and will expedite the enforcement of mediated settlements arising from foreign mediations.

Pursuant to the new Mediation Act, which came into force on 1 November 2017, the framework for enforcement of mediated settlements in Singapore has been strengthened and parties can apply to a court to record their written settlement agreement as an order of court. This allows the mediated settlement agreement to be directly and immediately enforceable as a court order should there be a breach of its terms subsequently.

The SICC

For users who prefer the features of litigation and a court-based process, there is also the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), the bench of which is made up of a “who’s who” list of eminent international jurists. The SICC provides a neutral forum for commercial litigation for parties with little or no connection to Singapore, including for disputes that may be governed by foreign law. Parties are free to engage foreign counsel to represent them in proceedings before the SICC.

Today, Singapore law practices are the largest in Southeast Asia. By convening the key players that are critical to the successful resolution of a dispute, and offering a comprehensive range of options, Singapore serves as a gateway for the dispute resolution needs of parties from around the world.

LIM SEOK HUI is the chief executive officer of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. She can be contacted at +65 6713 9777 or by email at seokhuilim@siac.org.sg

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